Personality disorders affect many people in the UK, but there’s a lack of clear and truthful information out there that really explains what personality disorders are. They can affect the way people interact with or relate to others, experience emotions, perceive other people and activities, and may experience the world a little differently from other. But despite what you may have heard, having a personality disorder doesn’t stop people from living happy and healthy lives!
There are lots of misconceptions out there about personality disorders, such as the idea of there being just one ‘personality disorder’. There are actually several different types of personality disorder and they all affect people differently. Personality disorders can be split into three clusters, A, B, and C. Each cluster has its own symptoms, and people with a personality disorder typically find themselves in at least two of them.
Cluster A personality disorders might mean that someone finds it difficult relating to other people. Personality disorders that are in this cluster include:
Paranoid Personality Disorder: People with this disorder may find it difficult to trust others or confide in them as they worry about what people think about them.
Schizoid Personality Disorder: People with this disorder prefer to spend time on their own and can sometimes find it difficult to build friendships or romantic relationships. There is a misconception that people with Schizoid Personality Disorder are cold, but this is untrue. People with this disorder may simply not display emotions in a way you’re used to seeing.
Schizotypal Personality Disorder: People with this disorder worry about people thinking negatively about them. Because of this worry, they may find difficulties in forming close relationships. Some people with this disorder also have specific interests that others may find niche.
People with a personality disorder from Cluster B can be highly emotional and a little unpredictable. Personality disorders in this cluster include:
Antisocial Personality Disorder: People with this disorder may be impulsive and are easily bored.
Borderline Personality Disorder: This is also known as Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder. People with this disorder may find forming and keeping friendships difficult because of a fear of rejection. They may also experience emotions intensely and worry about their self-image.
Histrionic Personality Disorder: People with this disorder worry about how others think about them and like to get approval and praise from others. They may also feel like they always have to entertain people in order to be liked.
Narcissistic Personality Disorder: People with this disorder may feel upset if others ignore them. They like to talk about things that they have done which they’re proud of and like to feel appreciated.
Someone with a personality disorder from Cluster C can often experience intense fear and anxiety. Personality disorders that are in this cluster include:
Avoidant Personality Disorder: People with this disorder can be quite shy and worry about being rejected. They may feel lonely but worry about forming friendships because of the fear of rejection. They may also feel like they’re not as good as other people and worry about being around others because of it.
Dependent Personality Disorder: People with this disorder worry that they can’t trust themselves so they ask others to help so that they can feel sure. This can affect their confidence and make it harder to make smaller decisions. They also find it hard to say no to people or disappoint them and often put others’ needs above their own.
Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder: Not to be confused with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), (link to article here), which is triggered by intrusive thoughts. People do display some similar symptoms to OCD, including having set rules, schedules, or rituals. People with this disorder can also set really high standards for themselves which are hard to meet.
In 2020, the Royal College of Psychiatrists (RCP) wrote a position statement on services for people diagnosable with a diagnosable personality disorder. This outlined that there remains a lack of support for people diagnosed with personality disorders, and while there has been improvements to diagnosis and support, there is still much more that can be done. This includes doing further research and providing health and social care organizations with more information on personality disorders to better support and empower people who have been diagnosed. This will hopefully create a society much more accepting and understanding of personality disorders, and help more people get diagnosed without fear of stigma attached. You can read the RCP’s full statement here.
People with a personality disorder face much stigma and by learning more about the different disorders which exist, and appreciating people first before their conditions, it is hoped that we can help to put harmful myths to rest. This will take time, and some misconceptions will continue, but please know that other’s thoughts do not mean that there is any truth in them. Everyone is on their own journey and lives their own lives with their own experiences. You cannot paint everyone with the same brush, and any negative perceptions out there about personality disorders only say more about the people who perpetuate them than the people who live with them!
There are also issues with the term ‘personality disorder’ itself. Many find it inaccurate as they feel it invalidates their whole identity and sense of self. After all, a personality is an ever changing and growing thing, and the concept of a disorder doesn’t always take into account context or themselves as a person before the disorder. There has been a push to find a more accurate and less judgmental term from mental health organisations and people with a personality disorder, which could help improve perception and lessen stigma for people who are diagnosed with one. Less critical terms for personality disorders could help to better inform people about each individual disorder by providing a more accurate diagnosis, and would also help to reduce the sense of judgment.
If you have a personality disorder, think you might have one, or support someone with one, please know that you are not alone and that there are people out there to help. Below, we’ve collected a list of helpful links and organisations who can provide further information and support.