All Topics

Help With Personality Disorders

Curated and updated for the community by APA

Personality is the way of thinking, feeling and behaving that makes a person different from other people. An individual’s personality is influenced by experiences, environment (surroundings, life situations) and inherited characteristics. A person’s personality typically stays the same over time. A personality disorder is a way of thinking, feeling and behaving that deviates from the expectations of the culture, causes distress or problems functioning, and lasts over time.1

There are 10 specific types of personality disorders. Personality disorders are long-term patterns of behavior and inner experiences that differs significantly from what is expected. The pattern of experience and behavior begins by late adolescence or early adulthood and causes distress or problems in functioning. Without treatment, personality disorders can be long-lasting. Personality disorders affect at least two of these areas:

  • Way of thinking about oneself and others
  • Way of responding emotionally
  • Way of relating to other people
  • Way of controlling one’s behavior

Read more on symptoms & treatment

  • Sep 09, 2021
LGBTQ Youth Face Mental Health Challenges: Social Support and Safe Spaces Make a Difference 

More than four in 10 LGBTQ youth seriously considered suicide in the past year, according to The Trevor Project’s third annual survey out last May. Meanwhile, nearly half (46%) of LGBTQ youth reported wanting psychological or emotional counseling from a mental health professional but were unable to receive it in.

  • Aug 31, 2021
Most Teens Who Use E-Cigarettes Have Tried to Quit

More than half of middle and high schoolers who use e-cigarettes said that they intend to quit and about two-thirds had tried to quit during the past year, according to a recent study in Pediatrics.

  • Aug 11, 2021
Returning to School as the Pandemic Draws on: Addressing Concerns, Fears and Worries

Many children and parents are eagerly anticipating returning to school in the fall. However, across the country, communities and families are challenged by the prospect of sending children back to school amidst the ongoing pandemic uncertainties. These unprecedented times have impacted us all. You and members of your community may be wondering: what should I consider when choosing to return to the classroom? How do we keep students and teachers safe? How are students coping mentally and emotionally? How can we tell when a child or teen might need help and support from a professional?  How can we make sure children can access the help they need?

I’m concerned that my friend may have a personality disorder. I don’t think she’ll consider having an evaluation or getting help. What can I do?

People with personality disorders often have a hard time taking responsibility for their feelings and behaviors. They sometimes even blame others for their problems. However, each of them is suffering and is aware that their life is not going well. Approaching a friend about her painful feelings or the frustrations and disappointments in her life, and offering to listen, might be a way to help her consider treatment. If you have had a successful experience in therapy, share that with your friend, even if it wasn’t necessarily for “personality problems” (an off-putting term for many people). Most people with personality disorders enter treatment with another problem, such as depression, anxiety, substance abuse, a job loss, a romantic break-up, etc. The challenge is to get your friend “in the door,” so to speak, not to commit to long-term treatment at the beginning. Read More

My bother has been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. I want to be supportive and help him, but it has been extremely difficult to deal with his anger, aggressiveness and paranoia. How can I help him without feeling abused and hurt myself?

People with borderline personality disorder have significant problems in relationships. On the one hand, they can be very needy and clingy in relationships. On the other hand, they push people away because they are insecure themselves and distrust others. They would rather be the one who leaves than the one who is abandoned. To be able to tolerate the borderline person’s anger and aggression, family members must appreciate that the person is reacting out of a sense of weakness and suffering. That is not to say that family members should accept anger and abuse directed at them – limits must be set. Family members must be able to walk away, if necessary, from a situation for their own good, and without guilt. To help a person with borderline personality disorder people need to respect themselves enough to protect themselves. If you let yourself be abused, you will react with anger, push your brother away and confirm his suspicion that you do not love him (enough). Read More

About the Expert:

Andrew Skodol, M.D.
Research Professor, University of Arizona

APA Resources
Find a Psychiatrist

Find a psychiatrist in your area today

Search Now

Editor's Choice

MAY 23 2021

10 Myths About Borderline Personality Disorder We Must Leave Behind
Scoop Empire 

It’s Borderline Personality Disorder awareness month, and indeed there is a lot we don’t know. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, “BPD is an illness marked by an ongoing pattern of varying moods, self-image, and behavior. These symptoms often result in impulsive actions and problems in relationships.” Again and again we have seen the misplacement of mental disorders into inaccurate categories, borderline being one of them. In light of its awareness month, we’ve gathered some common misconceptions about the illness.

 May 13, 2021
Self-injurious behaviors, chronic emptiness increase suicide attempt risk in BPD

Borderline personality disorder diagnosis and related criteria of self-injurious behaviors and chronic emptiness significantly increased suicide attempt risk, according to results of a cross-sectional study published in JAMA Network Open. “The present study aimed to examine whether a lifetime BPD diagnosis and specific criteria of BPD are associated with lifetime and past-year [suicide attempts] in U.S. adults after adjusting for other known sociodemographic and clinical variables associated with [suicide attempts], including childhood adverse experiences and psychiatric comorbidity,” Carlos M. Grilo, PhD, of the department of psychiatry at Yale University School of Medicine

April 26, 2021
Behind the Scenes of Histrionic Personality Disorder
Psychology Today

Separation anxiety in children often includes very real upset stomachs and headaches. It's not faking. People with histrionic personalities learn that, with a little theatrics, they can turn up the volume of their physical discomforts. They often land in the emergency room, and after considerable evaluation, no medical causes can be found.  Part 1: The story of Nancy.