PERSONALITY DISORDERS: FIND YOUR INTERPRETATION
A. Paranoid Personality Disorder: Individuals with this type of personality disorder do not trust others. They constantly suspect that people around them have sinister motives. They also tend to have excessive trust in their own knowledge and abilities and usually avoid close relationships. They search for hidden meanings in everything and read hostile intentions into the actions of others. They are quick to challenge the loyalties of friends, loved ones, and often appear cold and distant. They usually shift blame to other people and tend to carry long grudges.
B. Schizoid Personality Disorder: People with schizoid personality disorder avoid relationships and do not show much emotion. Unlike avoidants, schizoids genuinely prefer to be alone and do not secretly wish for popularity. They tend to seek jobs that require little social contact. Their social skills are often weak and they do not show a need for attention or acceptance. They are perceived by others as humourless and distant and often are termed “loners.”
C. Antisocial Personality Disorder: A common misconception is that antisocial personality disorder refers to people who have poor social skills. The opposite is often the case. Instead, antisocial personality disorder is characterized by a lack of conscience. Individuals with this disorder are prone to criminal behaviour, believing that their victims are weak and deserving of being taken advantage of. Antisocial individuals tend to lie and steal. Often, they are careless with money and take action without thinking about consequences. They are often aggressive and are much more concerned with their own needs than the needs of others.
D. Emotionally Unstable (Borderline) Personality Disorder: Borderline personality disorder is characterized by mood instability and poor self-image. Individuals with this disorder are prone to constant mood swings and bouts of anger. Often, they will take their anger out on themselves, causing injury to their own body. Suicidal threats and actions are not uncommon. Borderlines think in very black and white terms and often form intense, conflict-ridden relationships. They are quick to anger when their expectations are not met. There is also an intense fear of abandonment with this disorder that interferes with many aspects if the individual’s life. This fear often acts as a self-fulfilling prophecy as they cling to others, are very needy, feel helpless, and become overly involved and immediately attached. When the fear of abandonment becomes overwhelming, they will often push others out of their life as if trying to avoid being rejected. The cycle most often continues as the individual will then try everything to get people back in his or her life and once again becomes clingy, needy, and helpless.
E. Histrionic Personality Disorder: Individuals with histrionic personality disorder often come across as attention seeking or overly dramatic. They may be inclined to express their emotions in an exaggerated or theatrical manner and they are often seen as self-centered or overly concerned about their physical appearance. While their behaviour is often charming and inviting at first (as their enthusiasm and seductiveness is appealing), their relationships often remain shallow and may be short-lived once people realize their constant demand for attention and lack of authenticity. For these reasons, individuals with this disorder often function well socially or at work, but may have difficulties in inter-personal relationships. Such individuals constantly seeking approval or reassurance, are overly dramatic behaviour with exaggerated expressions of emotion and excessive sensitivity to criticism or disapproval. They are inappropriately sexually provocative, and their appearance and behaviour seductive. Alongside this they also have a tendency to consider relationships more intimate than they are. They are overly concerned with physical appearance, often using it to gain attention and feel uncomfortable if they are not the center of attention reflecting upon their self-centeredness. They tend to get easily frustrated and expresses low tolerance for delayed gratification. Their emotional expression is shallow and rapidly shifting. Along with this they are also easily influenced by others and suggestible, have a tendency to make rash decisions grounded on emotional impulse and may threaten or attempt suicide to get attention. As with other personality disorders, people with histrionic personality disorder usually only seek treatment when high stress levels or other situational factors in their lives become overwhelming and they begin to struggle with interpersonal relationships or feel that they are unable to cope.
F. Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder: This individual is a perfectionist, and obsesses about details to the point of following rules for the sake of the rules. They are extremely inflexible. Their quest for perfection usually slows progress toward goals because they tend to re-do things forever, without ever completing anything. They are over conscientious at work, but tend to not have many relationships. They are extremely rigid in terms of morals and values, to a degree not expected by their religious background. Their perfectionism prevents them from delegating tasks to others, so they tend to be bogged down in details, and become overwhelmed. At times, they are afraid to throw anything away, for fear, they may need it someday, and they are sometimes truepenny pinchers. They often have difficulty making decisions, because of fear of making a mistake. This disorder should not be confused with conscientious behaviour, attention to detail, and a desire to do a good job. It should also not be confused with normal conservative morals and values, and a desire to save money for the future. These are all positive characteristics that actually assist an individual in coping with the world. Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder is a condition in which these traits are severely exaggerated to the point of becoming negative.
G. Anxious Personality Disorder: Individuals with an anxious personality disorder are overly sensitive to rejection, and they fear starting relationships or anything new. They have a strong desire for affection and acceptance but avoid intimate relationships and social situations for fear of disappointment and criticism. Unlike those with a schizoid personality, they are openly distressed by their isolation and inability to relate comfortably to others. Unlike those with a borderline personality, they do not respond to rejection with anger; instead, they withdraw and appear shy and timid. Anxious personality is similar to generalized social phobia.
H. Dependent Personality Disorder: Dependent personality disorder is a chronic condition involving over-reliance on others to meet emotional and physical needs. This pervasive and excessive need to be taken care of leads to a submissive and clinging behaviour as well as fears of separation. Individuals with dependent personality disorder have great difficulty even making every day’s minor decisions without an excessive amount of advice and reassurance from others. These individuals tend to be passive and allow other people to take the initiative and assume responsibility for most major areas of their lives. Because they fear losing support or approval, individuals with dependent personality disorder often have difficulty expressing disagreement with other people, especially those on whom they are dependent. These individuals feel so unable to function alone that they will agree with things that they feel are wrong rather than risk losing the help of those to whom they look for guidance. Individuals with this disorder have difficulty initiating projects or doing things independently. They may go to excessive lengths to obtain nurturance and support from others, even to the point of volunteering for unpleasant tasks if such behaviour will bring the care that they need. Individuals with this disorder feel uncomfortable or helpless when alone, because of their exaggerated fears of being unable to care for themselves. When a close relationship ends individuals with dependent personality disorder may urgently seek another relationship to provide the care and support they need. They are often preoccupied with fears of being left to care for themselves.
I. Depressive Personality Disorder: Individuals suffering from this disorder have pervasive and continuous depressive thoughts and behaviours. They manifest themselves in every area of life and never decrease. The individual is gloomy, dejected, pessimistic, overly serious, lacks a sense of humour, cheerless, joyless, and constantly unhappy. This dark mood is not influenced by changing circumstances. The individual’s self-image is distorted: he holds himself to be worthless, inadequate, a loser. His sense of self-worth and his self-esteem are invariably and unrealistically low. This feeling borders on self-hatred and self-abnegation leading to punishing himself unnecessarily. He is insulting towards his self, blaming and self-critical and is busy in hateful self-destruction. The individual also extends this tendency to humiliate and punish his nearest and dearest. His masochism is complemented by equally exacting sadism. He is negativistic, passive-aggressive, critical, judgmental, and disciplinary towards others. Such recurrent outbursts are followed by feelings of remorse and guilt, often coupled with over-sentimental and straight apologies. Individuals with a depressive personality disorder are also prone to excessive worry and brooding.
J. Narcissistic Personality Disorder: An individual with this disorder is in love with himself/herself, and has little positive regard for others other than in a superficial manner. They tend to be flashy in their presentation of themselves, seek, and demand admiration from others. They believe they are special and deserve special treatment, regardless of the problems this creates for others. They readily take advantage of others, and tend to be quite arrogant. In actuality, they are very sensitive, and tend not to be able to tolerate any criticism or negative feedback. They usually seek treatment because they are frustrated in getting what they want. However, they often do not seek treatment, because they perceive everyone else as causing the problems, not themselves.
HOW DO PERSONALITY DISORDERS DEVELOP?
The causation of any particular personality disorder is tremendously complex, and even with the information we do have it is all but impossible to predict how given circumstances will affect given individuals. It is not always possible to isolate and evaluate the multiple factors involved. However, I shall attempt to delineate the role that several kinds of biological, psychological, and socio-cultural factors can play in causing maladaptive behaviours, either by producing faulty development – thus hampering our adjustive demands – or by increasing stress or both. These factors are overall responsible for not only personality disorders but also all types of abnormal behaviours. (All causes of abnormal behaviour/personality disorders are dealt with in the chapter on Causes of Abnormal Behaviour).
1. Biological Factors: Biological factors influence all aspects of our behaviour, including our intellectual capabilities, basic temperament, primary reaction tendencies, stress tolerance, and adaptive resources. Thus, a wide range of biological conditions such as faulty genes, diseases, endocrine imbalances, malnutrition, injuries, and other conditions that interfere with normal development and functioning are potential causes of abnormal behaviours. In this manner, for example, genetically transmitted traits related with temperament can influence upon the way the child manages stressful situations and other threatening impulses. These and many others inherited characteristics ultimately end up shaping his over all personality. If there is a genetic aberration then it will result in the development of faulty coping strategies, negatively influencing the personality.
2. Faulty Upbringing: The development of one’s personality is dependent upon and influenced by heredity and the environment. Heredity is like clay, which provides the core components and environment the potter, which shapes the ultimate personality. As a child grows, he acquires or learns attitudes and behaviour patterns from his parents and other family members. Some of these include personal qualities as work and study habits, moral convictions, neatness or cleanliness, and consideration of others. In the process of growing up children have to learn to adapt to their specific families. The various types of faulty relationships between a child and his parents are one of the major causes of personality disorders and other mental ailments. (For details refer to chapter on Causes of Abnormal Behaviour). However, some individual’s with a personality disorders come from families that appear to be stable and healthy. It has been suggested that these individual’s are biologically hypersensitive to normal family stress levels. Levels of the brain chemical (neurotransmitter) dopamine may influence an individual’s level of novelty seeking, and serotonin levels may influence aggression thus making an otherwise normally developed individual behave in an abnormal manner.
3. Mass Media: The media exposes us to a lot of information. Sometimes the information is very dangerous and threatening and at times, it makes a hype of minor issues. When susceptible people are exposed to such information, their anxiety level may go up by an irrationally perceived threat to their being. This anxiety in turn may make them withdraw from society as a precautionary measure. This isolation then may begin to depress them and this chain of symptoms may soon become unending leading to exhibition of abnormal behaviour. However, generally such causes are temporary and short-lived.
TAMING THE DEVIL OF PERSONALITY DISORDERS
1. Psychotherapy: As the causes of personality disorders are various so are the treatments for each specific disorder. However, there are some general principles, which apply to all such treatments. Psychotherapy is at the core of care for these various personality disorders. Because personality disorders produce symptoms as a result of poor or limited coping skills, psychotherapy aims to improve perceptions of and responses to social and environmental stressors. It bases itself on the general principle that individual’s with personality disorders usually do not see a problem with their own behaviour; hence they have to be confronted and made aware of the harmful consequences of their maladaptive thoughts and behaviours. Keeping this fact in mind, a therapist repeatedly needs to point out the undesirable consequences of their thought and behaviour patterns. At times, it also becomes essential for the therapist to set limits to which the individual can do a specific behaviour. The support and involvement of the family is also very essential. They have to play an active role in either positively reinforcing required behaviours/thoughts or punishing or diminishing undesired problematic ones. If required the psychiatrist may also prescribe some mild antidepressants. However, in most of the cases of personality disorders there is no need for medication.
2. Self-Help: The best way to tame the devil of your personality disorders is to make corrections to your lifestyle. The following simple tips will prove useful if adopted otherwise also.
Take regular therapy. Have patience it is not magic which will work overnight. It takes time as well as your commitment. If you cooperate and regularly follow the advice of your therapist, it will do wonders to your personality.
Keep yourself physically as well as mentally active. Do regular excises, read, play games, go out, and enjoy life. Be happy and cheerful. In short, activate your happiness.
Do not take alcohol or drugs. Quit them if you are consuming either. They end up harming you physically as well as mentally.
Make your life simple. Plan and schedule things in such a manner, that it takes the stress off your back. Relax and take up only what you can manage. There is a long life ahead. Stress will only cut it short.
Learn how to relax and manage your stress – take some lessons if required. Practise relaxation on a regular basis.
Try avoiding those environmental and situational factors, which are causing you problems – take a break and go for a vacation. A change always does well.
Sleep well and eat well. Keep your body healthy for a healthy mind to dwell within the same.
Give vent to your frustrations – express your anger, pain, grief, frustrations by writing them down in a piece of paper. Tear it and throw it in the dustbin because they deserve to be there not within you.
Socialize. Make friends and move out with them. Avoid isolation – it is depressing.
Remain focused on your goals – the goal of curing your personality disorder. It your life you make it or break it – the choice is yours.
We should remember that we are the makers and not the slaves of our lives. Let not the past bring despair and hopelessness into out present. Pledge that you can and you will overcome all the hurdles that come your way in shaping a good personality for yourself. Take a step at a time. Rest if you must but do not quit. Nothing is impossible to achieve if we have the will to do so. What it all needs is courage and determination. Where the going gets tough the tough get going. So get moving towards attaining a better mental health.