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The topic of personality disorders is controversial and difficult to navigate. Here we examine the condition and the type of treatment available to you.

What is a personality disorder?

Personality disorders, or personality syndromes, are complex psychological conditions that affect an individual’s thoughts, feelings and behaviours in ways that often differ significantly from societal norms and expectations.

As people with personality disorders may have difficulty relating to others, this can lead to problems in both personal and professional relationships.

How common are personality disorders?

Personality disorders are quite common, so it is important to be aware of them. Sources estimate that 1 in 20 people in the UK have some form of personality disorder. This is widespread enough for the issue to affect all of us, either directly or indirectly through someone we know.

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Common types

  • Narcissism: Characterised by an exaggerated sense of self-worth and a lack of empathy towards others.
  • Borderline: Includes intense emotional swings and a chronic sense of emptiness.
  • Antisocial personality disorder (psychopathy): A lack of remorse and responsibility, often with impulsive behaviour.

Therapy for narcissism and other disorders

Most often, therapeutic interventions are effective in managing symptoms. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavioural therapy (DBT) are among the most commonly used methods.

Advice for those who know someone with a personality disorder

Be careful with boundaries: It is important to set clear boundaries to protect yourself and your own psychological well-being.

Seek professional help: It is not your job to diagnose or treat someone. Let this be handled by qualified health care providers.

Try not to judge: A personality disorder is a medical diagnosis and not a character flaw. It does not always excuse a person’s behaviour, but it can explain it.

Be aware of your own needs: Take care of yourself and seek support, either from friends, family or a professional therapist or psychologist.


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We make the difficult easier

Approaching the topic of personality disorders can feel overwhelming, but we are here to make the difficult easier. When you feel it’s time to talk to a psychologist or therapist, we make it simple to book a session with one of our team. No matter when you take the step, our experienced therapists are always ready to help you or your loved ones.


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7 frequently asked questions about personality disorders

What is a personality disorder?

A personality disorder is an enduring pattern of behaviour, worldview and inner experience markedly different from the norms. This is because personality disorders can affect one’s ability to relate to others and function effectively in everyday life.

Is narcissism a type of personality disorder?

Yes, narcissistic personality disorder is one of several types. Individuals with narcissism have an exaggerated sense of self-importance and a lack of empathy towards other people.

How is a psychopath different from other personality disorders?

A psychopath often shows a lack of conscience and empathy and can manipulate others without any sense of guilt or remorse. It is an extreme form of antisocial personality disorder and requires professional evaluation and treatment.

How is borderline personality disorder diagnosed?

Diagnosis of borderline personality disorder is usually carried out by a psychiatrist or psychologist and involves an in-depth interview and possible psychological testing. Behavioural patterns such as unstable self-image and impulsivity are at the heart of the diagnosis.

What are the treatment options for personality disorders?

Treatment can vary depending on the type of disorder and the unique needs of the individual, but usually involves a combination of psychotherapy and medication. A care plan involving several different therapists or psychologists is often recommended.

How can I help someone close to me who has a personality disorder?

The most important step is to encourage the person to seek professional help. You can also offer emotional support, but remember that you are not a substitute for qualified care.

Is there any way to prevent personality disorders?

There is no sure way to prevent personality disorders, but early intervention can help alleviate symptoms. It is important to have a correct diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

Can you force someone to go to therapy?

No, you can’t force someone to undergo therapeutic treatment. It is rarely a good idea to force someone into therapy. A person needs to understand that they need to work on themselves. Therapists rarely see people with personality syndromes in the therapy room. These people usually believe that they do not need therapy.


Written by dominic

Dominic is a Cape Town-based copywriter and editor with a background in psychology.