In so many words, a personality disorder is a type of mental disorder characterized by unhealthy patterns of thinking, functioning, and/or behaving. An individual who is afflicted with a personality disorder may have an especially difficult time relating to other people, and effectively coping with day-to-day situations. He or she may be completely unaware that an issue exists, seeing as his or her way of thinking and behaving has become so natural. It is very common for those afflicted with personality disorders to blame others for the challenges they face, unable to see their own part in recurring problems.
There are several types of personality disorder, and not all are equally as apparent. Most will begin during childhood or early adolescence, and several become less apparent throughout adulthood. However, regardless of how severe a particular personality disorder is (or may appear), it is very common for those who are afflicted to turn to chemical substances or other self-destructive behaviors in attempts to alleviate emotional and psychological symptoms. Thus, personality disorders and addiction tend to often go hand-in-hand.
There are three main classifications of personality disorder, and each classification is known as a cluster. Disorders are grouped into clusters based on similarities in symptoms and characteristics.
Cluster A includes:
- Paranoid personality disorder
- Schizoid personality disorder
- Schizotypal personality disorder
Cluster B includes:
- Antisocial personality disorder
- Borderline personality disorder
- Histrionic personality disorder
- Narcissistic personality disorder
Cluster C includes:
- Avoidant personality disorder
- Dependent personality disorder
- Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder
Most personality disorders are caused by a combination of genetic predisposition and environment. Environmental factors include upbringing, events that occurred, and interpersonal relationships (with family members and others).
Individuals tend to be more at risk of developing a personality disorder if:
- He or she has a family history of personality disorders or related mental illness
- He or she was diagnosed with some type of conduct disorder during childhood or early adolescence
- He or she was brought up in a chaotic, dysfunctional, or unstable household (perhaps one or both parents suffered from mental illness)
- Variations in brain structure or chemistry are present
Although there are numerous types of personality disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder (or BPD) tends to be the most common amongst addicts and alcoholics. BPD causes intense emotional instability, which frequently leads to relationship issues, a deeply rooted fear of abandonment, and extremely low feelings of self-esteem and self-worth. Those who suffer from BPD will typically display a wide range of intense self-destructive behaviors, and many of these behaviors will repeatedly occur over a long period of time. Many individuals who suffer from this particular personality disorder will concurrently suffer from another disorder, such as anxiety, depression, or a co-occurring addictive disorder, such as compulsive gambling, an eating disorder, or a substance abuse disorder. Like other personality disorders, BPD has its own set of diagnostic criteria, and can only be properly identified and diagnosed by a professional. During evaluation, the professional will evaluate the following areas:
- Impulse control
- Appropriateness of emotional responses
- Effective functioning in interpersonal relationships
- Interpretation of self, others, and events