5 Most Misunderstood Personality Disorders

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Personality disorders come in many different forms. Unfortunately these conditions are highly misunderstood with many false beliefs surrounding them. Some people believe people with these conditions are attention seeking, un-treatable, or even that they are a danger to others. To get a better look into what personality disorders are, in this article, we’ll be exploring the five most misunderstood personality disorders.

But First, What Are Personality Disorders?

Personality disorders are a number of conditions that relate to how a person thinks and responds to other people. They generally struggle with relationships and have a difficult time living out a normal life. With personality disorders, there are different clusters categorizing each specific condition. Cluster A disorders such as: schizotypal, schizoid, and paranoid personality disorders often relate to odd beliefs and behavior. Cluster B disorders such as: antisocial, histrionic, borderline, and narcissistic personality disorders are usually dramatic and unpredictable behaviors. While Cluster C such as avoidant, dependent, and obsessive-compulsive personality disorders usually relate to fear and preventative behaviors. Each disorder develops and affects someone differently and has different treatment options based on case (Mayo Clinic 2016).

With that said, here are the five most misunderstood personality disorders:

Borderline Personality Disorder

What it is not:

  • A cry for attention;  it is often highly distressing to the individual themself.
  • A personal choice; it is a documented condition that requires treatment in order to get better.
  • Dangerous; very few cases of violence have actually been the result of the condition itself.
  • Bipolar disorder; while similar, bipolar condition is a mood disorder separate from a person’s personality.

What it is:

  • Disorder relating to unstable moods and relationships.
  • Feelings towards others can change dramatically and rapidly (splitting).
  • Usually an intense fear of abandonment.
  • Can be developed as a result of trauma and rocky relationships, but not necessarily.
  • Fragile sense of self.
  • Treatable.

(Source: Christiansen 2020)

BPD is a possibly the most misunderstood personality disorder. The intense emotions can makes life extremely difficult for the people with the condition and those around them. With rocky relationships, it can be easy for the person with BPD to feel isolated, developing further problems. However, it is a treatable condition, much like any other. People can go on to live on happy and healthy lives with functioning relationships (NIMH 2020).

Narcissistic Personality Disorder

What it is not:

  • Always feeling superior; in fact, many with NPD struggle with self-esteem.
  • Untreatable; NPD does have several treatment options.
  • Always charming and outgoing; not a one-size-fits all situation.
  • Unable to form healthy relationships; there are treatment options to manage the condition. The specific treatment must be carefully decided and followed.
  • Anyone who is confident and arrogant; NPD is a specific disorder, and a relatively rare one. Not everyone with egotistical traits have NPD.

What it is:

  • Disorder that deals with a person’s self esteem and relationships.
  • Typically characterized by an exaggerated sense of self-importance.
  • Need for admiration at an unhealthy level.
  • Difficulty with empathizing with others.

(Source: Cunha 2020)

NPD is a disorder with a lot of stigma behind it. While left untreated, the constant need for admiration and manipulation can cause great distress to both the people with it and those around them. It is important to know that it can be treated. Working with the proper professionals and actively identifying the negative symptoms can improve the quality of life and relationships for people with the condition. However, as with any condition, it takes work and effort to improve (Renzoni 2019).

Antisocial Personality Disorder

What it is not:

  • Preference to be alone and away from people; this would be asocial behavior, not antisocial. These may point more towards Avoidant Personality Disorder than ASPD.
  • Killers; while violence can be associated with ASPD, it is rarely the case.
  • Untreatable; while difficult, it not impossible. Often requires working with a person who specializes in treating ASPD.
  • Psychopaths; while there may be crossover, sociopaths and psychopaths are fundamentally different.

What it is:

  • Disorder characterized by remorseless and unempathetic attitudes towards others.
  • Apathy towards right and wrong.
  • Manipulation.
  • Risky and impulsive behaviors.
  • Overly self protective.

(Source: Mayo Clinic 2019)

ASPD is generally stigmatized as a disorder that cold, remorseless murderers have. While people with ASPD tend to have a higher rate of incarceration, ASPD patients are not typically killers. Despite that there generally is a strong sense of impulsivity, manipulation, and erratic behavior, ASPD is still a condition that can be treated. Much like any other condition, ASPD requires specific and directed attention to the behaviors. Extra care between psychologists and patients must be observed to ensure proper steps are taken (Renzoni 2020).

Histrionic Personality Disorder

What it is not:

  • A choice; it is a disorder, not a conscious decision.
  • Excessive self-esteem; in fact, is more likely the opposite.
  • Untreatable; there are treatment options to improve quality of life.

What it is:

  • Disorder characterized by a need for attention.
  • Impressionable.
  • Obsessed about self-image.
  • Highly emotional.

(Source: Mayo Clinic 2019)

HPD can easily be misunderstood as someone who craves attention. While this is part of it, it goes much beyond that. People with HPD tend to build their own self image based on how others perceive them. They may appear fake and superficial in their behavior. Like the other personality disorders, there are documented patterns of the condition making it an identifiable disorder. Much like the other disorders as well, it requires treatment with a qualified mental health professional for improvement (Strum 2020).

Schizotypal Personality Disorder

What it is not:

  • Schizophrenia; while there may be overlap and STPD patients may develop schizophrenia over time, they are separate conditions.
  • Simply being “weird.”
  • Untreatable; STPD can be treated just as any other condition.

What it is:

  • Disorder characterized by unusual beliefs and difficulty with relationships.
  • Strange “frame of reference” beliefs that ordinary events have additional meanings.
  • Unusual emotional responses.
  • Often accompanied with severe social anxiety.

(Source: Mayo Clinic 2019)

STPD is often confused with schizophrenia, however is much different. It lacks the psychotic symptoms that are usually present in schizophrenia; they can usually tell the difference between reality and thought. STPD can be an isolating condition; making it hard to relate and bond with others. Fortunately, the condition can be treated and make life more manageable (WebMD 2006).

Personality disorders carry an unfortunate amount of stigma with them. Sometimes to the extreme that people don’t believe that they exist at all. While yes, these disorders are documented and conform to patterns that identify them as such, more importantly they can all be treated. Some disorders have more of an effect than others requiring different modes of treatment with varying effects. It is important to know however, that active participation and work to improve oneself with any personality disorder has a tremendous effect on treatment. It takes getting in contact with the right mental health professional professional and being put in a proper treatment program for improvement. Let us know what your thoughts about personality disorders are in the comments!

References:

  • Christiansen, T. (2020, January 27). Schizotypal Personality Disorder Myths. The Recovery Village Drug and Alcohol Rehab. www.therecoveryvillage.com/mental-health/schizotypal-personality-disorder/related/stpd-myths/
  • Cunha, J. (2020, August 10). What Are the Nine Traits of a Narcissist? EMedicineHealth. www.emedicinehealth.com/what_are_the_nine_traits_of_a_narcissist/article_em.htm
  • Florida Behavioral Health. (2019, October 8). Understanding Antisocial Personality Disorder. Behavioral Health Florida. www.behavioralhealthflorida.com/blog/understanding-antisocial-personality-disorder/
  • Harvard Health Publishing. (2019, March). Schizotypal Personality Disorder. Harvard Health. www.health.harvard.edu/a_to_z/schizotypal-personality-disorder-a-to-z
  • Hull, M. (2020, January 28). Personality Disorder Myths. The Recovery Village Drug and Alcohol Rehab. www.therecoveryvillage.com/mental-health/personality-disorders/related/personality-disorder-myths/
  • Johnson, E. (2020, January 22). 6 Common Myths About Borderline Personality Disorder. Verywell Mind. www.verywellmind.com/myths-borderline-personality-disorder-425499
  • Mayo Clinic. (2016, September 23). Personality disorders – Symptoms and causes. www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/personality-disorders/symptoms-causes/syc-20354463
  • MedCircle. (2020, May 21). The 4 Most Misunderstood Personality Disorders & How to Spot Them [Video]. YouTube. www.youtube.com/watch?v=h-Vn_Qhyq38
  • NIMH. (2020, November 30). NIMH » Borderline Personality Disorder. National Institute of Mental Health. www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/borderline-personality-disorder/index.shtml
  • Renzoni, C. (2019, November 26). Narcissistic Personality Disorder Myths. The Recovery Village Drug and Alcohol Rehab. www.therecoveryvillage.com/mental-health/narcissistic-personality-disorder/related/npd-myths/
  • Renzoni, C. (2020, November 2). Antisocial Personality Disorder Myths. The Recovery Village Drug and Alcohol Rehab. www.therecoveryvillage.com/mental-health/antisocial-personality-disorder/related/aspd-myths/
  • Strum, J. (2020, September 18). Histrionic Personality Disorder Myths. The Recovery Village Drug and Alcohol Rehab. www.therecoveryvillage.com/mental-health/histrionic-personality-disorder/related/hpd-myths/
  • WebMD. (2006, February 2). Schizotypal Personality Disorder. www.webmd.com/mental-health/schizotypal-personality-disorder#1

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