The mental health community describes a personality disorder as a mental disorder that profoundly impacts how people think, feel, and behave.
The capacity to healthily manage feelings, interact with others, and regulate one’s emotions may prove challenging for personality disorder sufferers due to the nature of the condition.
What is a personality disorder?
According to mental health professionals, a personality disorder consists of pervasive patterns of behaviour that do not alter or change over time.
The above can result in severe emotional distress for people with personality disorders.
A personality disorder often impacts all aspects of a person’s life, including school, work, or personal life.
Personality disorder clusters
The diagnostic and statistical manual (DSM – 5) currently lists ten personality disorders that are categorised into three main groups:
- Cluster A personality disorders
- Cluster B personality disorders
- Cluster C personality disorders
This article will focus on Cluster A personality disorders specifically.
What are Cluster A personality disorders?
Unlike Cluster B personality disorders (which are characterised by overly emotional, dramatic, or erratic behaviours), Cluster A personality disorders are characterised by odd, eccentric thinking or behaviour.
Cluster A personality disorders:
The Cluster A personality disorders include:
- Paranoid personality disorder
- Schizoid personality disorder
- Schizotypal personality disorder
Paranoid personality disorder
A paranoid personality disorder is characterised by several symptoms, which involve:
- Being unjustifiably distrustful or suspicious of others regarding their loyalty or trustworthiness
- Believing that other people are trying to hurt or deceive you in some way (without any evidence of foul play or ill-intention)
- Having a skewed perception – for example, believing that innocent remarks or non-life-threatening situations are personal insults or attacks
- Pervasive suspicion and lack of trust in others and their motives
- A tendency to hold on to resentment and grudges
- Unjustified suspicion that a partner or spouse is a cheat or unfaithful
- A tendency to be angry or hostile in response to perceived slights or insults
Schizoid personality disorder
Schizoid personality disorder symptoms include:
- A lack of (or limited) range of emotional expression
- An inability to pick up on ordinary social cues
- Appearing cold or detached to others.
- A lack of interest in social activities or personal relationships, and preferring to be alone
- Inability to enjoy fun activities or social pursuits.
- Having little to no interest in sexual relations with another person
Schizotypal personality disorder
Those with schizotypal personality disorder typically experience the following symptoms:
- Inappropriate emotional responses or flat emotions
- Eccentric dress sense, as well as peculiar thinking, behaviour, speech or language patterns
- Engaging in ‘magical thinking’, such as believing you can influence certain events or people
- Social anxiety and discomfort in close relationships
- Bizarre, perceptual experiences – for instance, hearing a voice talking to you that may not be real.
- The belief that specific events or situations have hidden messages or connotations meant only for you.
How does a person get diagnosed with a Cluster A personality disorder?
Research states that personality disorders are much more complex to diagnose than other mental health conditions.
One of the reasons is that we each possess unique characteristics and traits and different ways of perceiving others and the world in general.
Suppose you suspect that you or someone close to you may have a personality disorder.
In that case, you must contact a mental health professional in the first instance who will take you through a psychological assessment and evaluation.
The way that mental health experts diagnose personality disorders at the outset is by asking the patient a series of questions, such as:
- How you perceive yourself, others, and situations
- How you interact with others (particularly in close relationships)
- How appropriate your emotional responses are in any given event or situation
- How you control your impulses
Your therapist or doctor may also ask you to fill out a survey or questionnaire to determine your responses to certain stimuli.
Once the information gathering stage is over, your therapist may refer to the diagnostic and statistical manual to determine an accurate diagnosis.
As it stands, there is no known cause for personality disorders.
Although there are several risk factors that put people at risk of developing a personality disorder, such as:
- Childhood trauma includes growing up in an abusive, chaotic family household.
- Differences in brain structure and chemistry
- Having a child conduct disorder
- Family history of mental illness such as depression or a personality disorder
Similar to other personality disorders such as antisocial personality disorder, avoidant personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder, there are complications involved with Cluster A disorders.
Essentially, personality disorders tend to disrupt an individual’s entire life and those around them, which can cause severe complications.
Such complications include problems at school, work, and social relationships, leading to further issues such as substance abuse and social isolation.
Fortunately, there are several treatment options available to those with a personality disorder, and for many people, a mixture of treatments tend to be the most effective.
Mental health condition
A therapist will consider several factors before treatment options are offered, such as what type of personality disorder you have and the severity of how the condition affects your life.
According to some medical literature, it is not uncommon for people to try several treatments before finding the one that suits them the most.
Psychotherapy is a wide-ranging therapy that refers to talk therapy.
Typically, psychotherapy can occur on a one to one basis or in a family or group setting.
Family therapy usually involves at least one family member or close friend being present with you during a session, where a discussion around how they (and you) have been affected by your disorder may occur.
On the other hand, group therapy involves meeting with people who share the same symptoms, personality traits and conditions as you.
Other forms of psychotherapy
Other psychotherapy treatments that might help include:
- Dialectical behavioural therapy – this type of therapy involves a mixture of group therapy and talk therapy, which will teach you how to manage your symptoms.
- Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) – CBT is a talk therapy that allows you to explore any maladjusted thoughts and behaviours, which helps give you the tools to manage your feelings better.
- Psychoanalytic therapy – psychoanalysis is a type of talk therapy that focuses on uncovering unconscious memories and emotions that may influence destructive thoughts and behaviours.
Many experts state that personality disorders begin in adolescence, with many people completely unaware that they have such a condition.
Rigid, unhealthy patterns of thinking, functioning and behaving can cause all kinds of complications, from social withdrawal, self-harm, a lack of impulse control, and depression, to name just a few.
Speaking to a mental health professional about your concerns is the first step to getting the treatment you deserve.
At Camino Recovery, we specialise in treating a range of mental health conditions – speak to a team member today to discuss your options.