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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 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.

See definition, symptoms, & treatment

  • Nov 09, 2018
APA Honors Psychiatrists who Served in Vietnam in Wreath-Laying Ceremony

On Nov. 1, 2018, the American Psychiatric Association held a wreath-laying ceremony at the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C. in honor of the service and sacrifice of psychiatrists who served during the Vietnam War.

  • Nov 09, 2018
Pregnancy-Related Depression

Over the past few decades, a robust national conversation has been taking place about postpartum depression. We have paid less attention, however, to another equally important time when a woman is also more vulnerable to depression and anxiety disorders: pregnancy. A significant percentage of women—one out of seven to 10—will develop pregnancy-associated depression, with a slightly higher incidence in women from lower socioeconomic groups.

  • Nov 02, 2018
More Sports Gambling Could Put More People at Risk of Gambling Problems

Gambling, while entertainment for many, can become problematic with devastating consequences for some. The increasing availability of sports gambling raises the specter of gambling addiction.

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Ongoing Events – Family Connections
  • National Education Alliance for Borderline Personality Disorder
  • Mon,  Oct  01 - Wed,  Oct  31
  • 10:15 AM - 10:15 AM

A 12-week program for relatives of a person with borderline personality disorder. In-person courses at various locations around the country; online course available.

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National Alliance on Mental Illness

Find a NAMI Family Support Group
  • Mon,  Oct  01 - Wed,  Oct  31
  • 10:15 AM - 10:15 AM

National Alliance on Mental Illness

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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OCTOBER 8, 2018

9 Things You Should Know About Borderline Personality Disorder

Allure Magazine

Borderline personality disorder, otherwise known as BPD, is a mental illness that is estimated to affect 1.6 percent of U.S. adults, though that number may be as high at 5.9 percent. While all mental illness carries the weight of stigma, BPD is one of the most misunderstood and least accepted, both by the general public and by mental health professionals. There are many myths that surround this illness that further contribute to suffering — myths that often keep those who identify with this disorder from seeking treatment. I know this because I am one of them.

SEPTEMBER 22, 2018

Compassion for People with Personality Disorders

Psychology Today

But some people make highly critical comments about those with personality disorders because of being in difficult relationships. In this blog series and in my books, my goal is to inform people about five types of personalities that can be difficult and sometimes dangerous to deal with. My hope is that by providing personality awareness, people will learn to communicate more effectively, protect themselves when necessary and use new ways of managing difficult relationships.

SEPTEMBER 12, 2018

What’s The Difference Between Being Antisocial & Being A Sociopath?

Whether we're trying to describe the ex from hell, or the friend who ghosted out of nowhere, we tend to throw around the word "sociopath" a lot. But sociopathy is complex, to say the least. "Sociopath is basically defined as someone who lacks empathy and really has an absence of it," says Laura Dabney, MD, a psychiatrist based in Virginia. "They can’t tolerate intimacy or abandonment." Sociopathy is also known as antisocial personality disorder, though it's very different from what we would think of as being antisocial (i.e., not wanting to spend a lot of time with other people).

JULY 25, 2018

Personality Disorders Have Been Totally Overhauled

Psychology Today

Despite being popular with the general public (if the spate of self-help books available on Amazon is any indication), the personality disorder sections of both the ICD and DSM have long been problematic, both conceptually and scientifically. The major scientific problem is that, although descriptively vivid, clinicians can't reliably distinguish the personality disorder categories from one another in practice.

JUNE 13, 2018

How having a borderline personality disorder can affect your friendships

It can be very difficult for people who don’t know about BPD to make sense of a friend's behaviour when their illness manifests itself in the friendship. Coming into contact with someone’s mood swings and extreme emotions, for example, can be off-putting. It might look like they're being difficult or a 'drama queen' when in reality, they're struggling with an integral part of the BPD diagnosis.

JUNE 11, 2018

Patients' self-diagnosis of personality disorders not as far off as previously believed

Science Daily

Researchers think the gap between a psychologists' diagnosis and a patient's self-evaluation might not be as extreme as previously perceived when both are using the same evaluation tools.

MAY 10, 2018

9 Borderline Personality Disorder Symptoms That Signal Mood Swings are Something More


Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a largely misunderstood mental illness that affects mostly women and can show up as early as your teenage years. It impacts the way you perceive yourself and others, and can manifest as an ongoing pattern of wildly unstable moods, bursts of intense anger, impulsive behaviors, and inconsistent self-image. Thinking in absolutes (viewing everything as good or bad, right or wrong, black or white) is common, as is an intense fear of abandonment from those you love.