Personality disorders are frequently referred to as character disorders. The reason for this is that these disorders permeate all aspects of the individual’s character. These disorders describe the way the person acts in different situations; the way they regard themselves; the way they deal with others and their overall outlook on life. Personality disorders are rigidified; that is they are felt to develop early in childhood and are relatively unmodifiable unless an individual undergoes intensive psychotherapy. Additionally, these disorders are ego syntonic; that is the individual does not regard the characteristics of the personality disorder as unwanted but rather, feels that they constitute who the individual really is. The individual tends to see little that is wrong with these characteristics. Consequently, treatment of these disorders is extremely challenging.
These disorders are classified in the following way:
- Schizoid Personality Disorders – Individuals with schizoid personalities tend to be detached, distant and cold in their relationships with other people. They are very private in terms of their personal lives and they have extreme difficulty with intimacy, close relationships and trusting other people. They may be seen as being aloof or uncaring and they may prefer a more solitary existence.
- Paranoid Personality Disorder – People with Paranoid Personality Disorder are mistrustful and suspicious of other people. They tend to have feelings of persecution and concerns that others have malevolent intent toward them. They have difficulty believing the motives of others and, consequently, have difficulty maintaining a stable relationship. Because of their orientation, they tend to be rejected by other people. Their suspiciousness does not reach a delusional state but, nevertheless, can be extremely troubling as the individual tries to form a stable relationship.
- Antisocial Personality Disorder – People with antisocial personalities are felt to have a diminished conscience. They have little regard for the needs of others and are comfortable doing things that they feel are in their own interest without regard to consequences, morality or hurting other people. They sometimes are known as sociopathic personalities and, because they feel their behavior gains them some advantages and also because they suffer from a lack of guilt, any changes in this personality formation are negligible.
- Narcissistic Personality Disorder – Individuals who have narcissistic personalities feel entitled and have an inflated sense of themselves. They typically have poor ability for compassion and empathy with others. They feel that in order to maintain their inflated concept for themselves, they demand constant reassurance of their specialness and uniqueness. While their behavior may reflect a sense of superiority or specialness, they have underlying feelings of low self esteem, which are usually not apparent unless a person is in a psychotherapeutic treatment environment.
- Borderline Personality Disorder – Individuals who have Borderline Personality Disorders typically have a history of instability in a variety of areas in life. These individuals tend to view the world in black and white terms. They have extreme needs for security and need assurance from others, often characterized by the fear of being abandoned. There is a high incidence of alcohol and drug abuse. Areas of instability include problems in maintaining a job; maintaining a relationship, as well as adjustment challenges in other areas of life. Often there is underlying confusion about one’s identity and, on occasion, individuals with borderline personalities have a history of trauma in their earlier years.
- Avoidant Personality – Those who have avoidant personality types tend to be extremely uncomfortable in social interactions. There are typically pervasive and intense feelings of low self esteem and feelings of inadequacy that lead the individual to be inhibited and insecure in social situations. Situations which can possibly stir underlying feelings of inadequacy tend to be avoided. These individuals are overly sensitive and, therefore, are very vulnerable to feeling criticized by others.
- Dependent Personality Disorder – Individuals who have dependent personality disorders typically go to any length to be accepted and supported by other people. They have difficulty functioning independently and suffer from a lack of confidence in making decisions. These individuals have a deep need to be cared for by other people. At an underlying level, they have extremely low self esteem, as well as a diminished sense of confidence. They doubt their ability to care for themselves independently.
- Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder – These individuals are much attuned to details, being orderly and adhering to rules and schedules. Such individuals tend to be very involved in work and, because there are features of orderliness, structure and control in a work environment, these individuals may thrive in such an atmosphere. Those with an obsessive compulsive personality tend to be highly moral and scrupulous in their dealings with other people. They tend to be quite rigid in their perception of right and wrong and quite exacting, with a lack of flexibility in their viewpoints.
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