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Personality Disorders

mental health conditions characterised by a lifelong pattern of harmful self-perceptions and problematic responses to others

We’re all like a unique puzzle: made up of thoughts, feelings and actions that define who we are. But sometimes, these pieces don’t quite fit together smoothly. They can lead to challenges that may affect our relationships, our ability to cope with stress and our wellbeing.  

Personality disorders can make it harder to navigate through difficult situations and maintain stable connections with others. They can manifest in various ways, from unpredictable mood swings to impulsive behaviours and can often leave individuals feeling lost and unsure of themselves. Reports have shown that around 6-10% of the general population have a personality disorder.

Seeking support and guidance from professionals is crucial in understanding and managing these challenges. However, diagnosing personality disorders can be complex, as their symptoms often overlap with other mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression.

Common myths about
Personality Disorders

Personality disorders are just a phase or a sign of weakness

Personality disorders involve deep-seated patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving that can significantly impact an individual’s life and relationships. These disorders often stem from a combination of genetic and environmental factors, and they typically require professional intervention and support for effective management. 

People with personality disorders are attention-seeking or manipulative

These behaviours are not intentional attempts to cause harm but are rather challenges of living with a personality disorder. Compassionate and understanding support is crucial in helping individuals with these conditions navigate their difficulties and work towards recovery.

Personality disorders cannot be treated or improved

Therapy approaches such as dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT) can be beneficial in helping people develop coping skills, regulate their emotions and build healthier relationships. It’s essential to recognise that recovery from a personality disorder is possible with proper treatment and commitment. 


While the exact causes of these disorders remain unclear, factors such as genetics, upbringing and past experiences may play a role in their development. For instance, people with history of past trauma, such as physical, emotional, or sexual abuse, and neglect, are more likely to be diagnosed with borderline personality disorder.  


The symptoms can vary widely depending on the specific type of disorder but may include: 

  • Fluctuating moods and emotions 
  • Fear of abandonment and difficulty in maintaining stable relationships 
  • Impulsive and reckless behaviour 
  • Identity confusion and feelings of emptiness 
  • Self-harming tendencies or thoughts of suicide 
  • Intense anger and difficulty controlling impulses 
  • Suspiciousness or paranoia 

Types of Personality Disorders

There are ten different personality disorders (PD) are typically categorised into three main clusters, each characterised by distinct patterns of behaviour: 

Cluster A – Difficulty in relating to others

PDs such as paranoid, schizoid, and schizotypal personality disorders may involve difficulties in forming close relationships, feeling suspicious of others and experiencing social detachment.

Cluster B – Difficulty in emotional regulation

PDs like borderline [sometimes called Emotionally Unstable (EUPD)], narcissistic, antisocial, and histrionic personality disorders are marked by challenges in controlling emotions, impulsivity and a heightened sensitivity to rejection or criticism.

Cluster C – Intense fear or anxiety

PDs, including dependent, avoidant and obsessive-compulsive (not to be confused with OCD) personality disorders, often involve extreme fears of abandonment, rejection, or criticism, leading to behaviours aimed at avoiding perceived threats and maintaining a sense of control.

Understanding the specific type of personality disorder can provide valuable insights into individual challenges and guide the development of treatment approaches aimed at improving overall quality of life. Remember that it is important not to diagnose yourself or others but to contact your GP for any medical advice. 

How do I support someone with a Personality Disorder? 

There are many ways you can support someone with a Personality Disorder. Here are a few simple ways: 

Educate yourself: Understanding the specific personality disorder your loved one is facing is crucial. It helps you comprehend their experiences, challenges and needs better. With knowledge, you can offer more informed support and avoid misconceptions.

Provide emotional support: Show empathy, compassion, and nonjudgemental understanding towards your loved one. Offer a safe space for them to express their feelings and thoughts without fear of criticism or rejection. Your emotional support can be immensely reassuring and validating for them.

Encourage professional help: Encourage your loved one to seek professional assistance from therapists or mental health professionals experienced in treating personality disorders. Offer to accompany them to appointments if they’re comfortable with you going along.

Professional guidance and therapy can provide effective strategies for managing symptoms and improving their quality of life. You can check the NHS website for more information.

Set boundaries: Set clear and healthy boundaries to protect yourself from being overwhelmed or emotionally drained. Communicate your boundaries respectfully and consistently, ensuring a balance between supporting them and taking care of yourself.

Be patient and persistent: Be patient with your loved one’s progress and setbacks and maintain a persistent presence in their life. Your consistent support, encouragement, and belief in their ability to overcome obstacles can be invaluable in their recovery process. 


Our Advice and Support Service is open Monday to Friday, 10 am to 4 pm, where advisers can signpost you to local support that most fits your needs, including our Change Mental Health services. We offer initial advice on money worries and help to deal with emergencies.

Contact 0808 8010 515, email us at or fill out the enquiry form on the Advice and Support Service page.

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