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Personality Disorder Treatment

A personality disorder is a mental health problem often characterised by rigid, structured, and repeated patterns of feeling, thinking and behaviour. The inflexible nature of these patterns can cause serious personal and social difficulties for the sufferer and also those close to them. The sufferer believes their behaviour is acceptable, which can make treatment challenging. Personality disorder treatment can include therapeutic sessions involving groups or individuals.

Getting lives back on track-

Personality disorder symptoms can begin to appear in adolescence, and continue into adulthood. The personality disorder can range from mild to very severe, and an individual sufferer may be more or less symptomatic at different times in their life. Personality disorder symptoms typically become more pronounced during times of stress. In England, a study published in 2006 found that one in 20 people were suffering from a personality disorder.

What is borderline personality disorder?-

Borderline personality disorder typically involves unusual and unstable mood levels, and ‘black and white’ thinking from one extreme to the other. Other characteristics include chaotic personal relationships, low levels of self-image, identity and behaviour, alongside a disturbance in a person's sense of oneself.

The term borderline was originally employed in 1938 to describe a condition as being on the borderline between neurosis and psychosis. The term no longer reflects today's thinking and the debate to change the name is fuelled predominantly by the stigma associated with the sufferers.

Conditions by cluster type-

Personality disorder consists of a number of separate conditions which all affect how people manage their emotions, and their relationships with others. This can cause the sufferer to behave in a way which is upsetting to others or causes harm to themselves.   The different disorders can be broadly grouped into three clusters, called A, B and C. Not infrequently, sufferers may meet diagnostic criteria for more than one disorder, which may be from different clusters.

  • Cluster A – behave in odd or eccentric ways. They can be cut off emotionally from others.  Cluster A includes paranoid personality disorder, schizoid personality disorder, and schizotypal personality disorder.
  • Cluster B – behave in dramatic, erratic, or impulsive ways. They tend to struggle to regulate their feelings and swing between positive and negative views of others. Cluster B includes borderline (emotionally unstable) personality disorder, histrionic personality disorder, narcissistic personality disorder and antisocial personality disorder.
  • Cluster C – struggle with overwhelming fear and anxiety. They tend to worry a lot, and can behave in a withdrawn way as a result. Cluster C includes obsessive compulsive personality disorder, avoidant personality disorder and dependent personality disorder.

Personality disorder symptoms and causes-

The majority of mental disorders occur in response to a number of factors, including genetic, social and environmental causes. Personality disorder is thought to be due to a combination of genetic predisposition as well as particular life experiences, which may or may not include incidents of trauma or abuse. 

  • Research on the inheritance of normal personality has found that some personality traits (e.g. narcissism) are more likely to be inherited than others. In addition, individuals with certain personality disorders are more likely to have relatives with mental illnesses (e.g. individuals with Cluster A personality disorders were more likely to have relatives with schizophrenia or schizophrenia-like disorders).
  • Child abuse and neglect consistently evidence themselves as risks which precede the development of personality disorders in adulthood. Children who had experienced verbal abuse were three times as likely as other children (who didn't experience such verbal abuse) to have borderline, narcissistic, obsessive-compulsive or paranoid personality disorders in adulthood.
  • Sexually abused children demonstrate the most consistently elevated patterns of psychopathology. Officially verified physical abuse showed an extremely strong correlation with the development of antisocial and impulsive behaviour. On the other hand, cases of abuse of the neglectful type that created childhood pathology were found to be subject to partial remission in adulthood.

Care and management of personality disorders-

For a long time, it was thought that personality disorder was untreatable, as it involved deep routed patterns of thought and behaviour. This is no longer accepted to be the case.  Treatments available for personality disorder can be psychological (talking therapies) or can involve medication.

Psychological therapies may take the form of group sessions or individual work.  There are a number of different types of psychological therapy which have been shown to be effective, which have different underlying theoretical approaches. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and dialectal behaviour therapy (DBT) are commonly used in the treatment of personality disorder.

Pharmacological treatment includes the use of antipsychotics, anti-depressants, and mood stabilisers.  As the precise package of treatment will be based on the needs of the individual patient, it is difficult to generalise.  The aim of treatment is to help sufferers live fulfilling lives, and to cope more effectively with their difficulties.

The Priory have produced a pdf download which lists the locations of all of our personality disorder hospitals, click here to download.

For further details on how Priory can provide you with further assistance regarding Personality Disorder Treatment, please call 0845 277 4679. For professionals looking to make a referral, please click here

Who treats this

Dr Ahmed Darwish

Dr Ahmed Darwish

Consultant in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry

The Priory Hospital Bristol

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Dr Anand Pal Singh

Dr Anand Pal Singh

Lead Consultant Psychiatrist - Adult

Caerlan - Llantisant

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Dr Anand Paranjape

Dr Anand Paranjape

Consultant Psychiatrist - Adults

The Priory Hospital Cefn Carnau - Cardiff

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Dr Caroline Bradley

Dr Caroline Bradley

Medical Director & Consultant Forensic Psychiatrist

Priory Hospital Middleton St George

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Dr Charles Hindler

Dr Charles Hindler

Consultant Psychiatrist - Adult

The Priory Hospital Hayes Grove

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Dr Claudia Bernat

Dr Claudia Bernat

Consultant Psychiatrist - Adult

The Priory Hospital North London

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Dr Costas Papageorgiou

Dr Costas Papageorgiou

Consultant Clinical Psychologist

The Priory Hospital Altrincham

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Dr David Kingsley

Dr David Kingsley

Lead Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist and Honorary Research Fellow

The Priory Hospital Cheadle Royal

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Dr Dumindu Witharana

Dr Dumindu Witharana

Consultant Forensic Psychiatrist - Adult

The Priory Hospital Hemel Hempstead

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Dr Hayley Van Zwanenberg

Dr Hayley Van Zwanenberg

Woodbourne Medical Director and Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist

Woodbourne Priory Hospital - Birmingham

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Dr Jonathan Shapero

Dr Jonathan Shapero

Consultant Forensic Psychiatrist - Secure

Chadwick Lodge - Buckinghamshire

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Dr Kiran Patel

Dr Kiran Patel

Consultant in Forensic Psychiatry - Adult

The Priory Hospital Sturt House - Surrey

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Dr Laurence Church

Dr Laurence Church

Staff Consultant - Adult

The Priory Hospital Woking

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Dr Mahadev Jasti

Dr Mahadev Jasti

Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist

The Priory Hospital Cheadle Royal

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Dr Marc Serfaty

Dr Marc Serfaty

Consultant Psychiatrist - Adult

The Priory Hospital North London

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View the full list of consultants

How is personality disorder diagnosed?

Diagnosis must satisfy general and specific criteria:

  • Behaviour which deviates markedly from the individual's culture
  • An enduring, inflexible and pervasive pattern of behaviour across a range of personal and social situations
  • The behavioural pattern leads to clinically significant distress or social, occupational and personal impairment
  • The pattern is consistent and lengthy, tracing back to adolescence or early adulthood
  • The pattern is not attributable to consequences of any other kind of mental health problem
  • The pattern is not due to substance abuse or a medical condition such as a head injury

While borderline personality disorder can manifest itself in children and teenagers, like personality disorder, therapists are discouraged from making a formal diagnosis of anyone before they are 18 years old. This is due to the nature of adolescence and an evolving personality during this time.

Why does it occur?

As with so many mental health problems, the causes of personality disorder and borderline personality disorder are unknown. Links to childhood trauma, such as verbal or sexual abuse, have been suggested. Genetics, neurobiological factors, environmental factors (such as neglect and deprivation) and brain abnormalities have also been indicated.

Borderline personality disorder is thought to affect 2% of adults, with three quarters of those diagnosed being female. Sufferers can also be prone to substance abuse, depression and other mood disorders.