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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

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  • Jul 17, 2020
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  • Jul 08, 2020
Practicing Gratitude to Boost Mental Well-being

Good mental health means emotional, social and psychological well-being, healthy relationships, effective functioning and productive activities, and an ability to adapt to change and cope with adversity. One approach that has been shown to foster mental well-being is focusing on gratitude. Many studies have found an association between being more grateful and a greater sense  of overall well-being.

Upcoming Events
Family Connections Program
  • Wed,  Apr  01 - Thur,  Apr  30

National Education Alliance for Borderline Personality Disorder. Family Connections is a 12-week program for relatives with a loved one with borderline personality disorder. Available in person and via conference call.

Family to Family Training – Find a Local Training
  • Wed,  Apr  01 - Thur,  Apr  30

National Alliance on Mental Illness

Find a NAMI Family Support Group
  • Wed,  Apr  01 - Thur,  Apr  30

National Alliance on Mental Illness

NAMI National Convention
  • Atlanta, Georgia
  • Wed,  Jul  15 - Sat,  Jul  18

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 Skokol, M.D.
Research Professor, University of Arizona

Maria's Story

Maria, a single woman without a job, sought therapy at age 33 for treatment of depressed mood, chronic thoughts of killing herself and having no social contact for many months. She had spent the last six months alone in her apartment, lying in bed, eating junk food, watching TV and doing more online shopping than she could afford.

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JULY 1, 2020

Social Media and Histrionic Personality Disorder
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Histrionic personality disorder involves symptoms such as expressing excessive emotions, being provocative and seeking an excessive amount of attention in ordinary social situations. Together with narcissistic and borderline personality disorders, histrionic personality disorder is classified in DSM-5 personality disorder. It typically begins in early adulthood and someone with the disorder presents symptoms in a variety of contexts such as at hanging out with friends, while at work, in public or on social media.

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JUNE 11, 2020

What Recovery Means to Me as Someone With Borderline Personality Disorder?

The Mighty

I have lived with emotional intensity and sensitivity for as long as I can remember. I first discovered I was “different” when I was in grade one and began crying during a read aloud on the carpet. My teacher told my parents I was “too emotional” and that this was “abnormal” for a grade one student. What I think may have been helpful could have been educating the teacher with the fact that all children are unique and there are no “right” reasons to cry. And also probing further to see how within my sensitivity, there was a gift — I would often embrace other children crying in the playground — I could connect with others, welcoming the lonely kids into my recess games. As an adult, after many years of misdiagnosis, I was eventually diagnosed as having borderline personality disorder (BPD) traits.