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Personality Disorders

​Personality disorders involve patterns of behaviour, mood, social interaction, and impulsiveness that cause distress to one experiencing them, as well as to other people in their lives.

Many of these behaviours may cause severe disturbance in the individual’s personal and work life. In general, individuals with personality disorders have difficulty with close, intimate or attachment relationships. They experience chronic interpersonal problems, have difficulties in establishing a coherent sense of self or identity, and may be seen to be impulsive, irritable, fearful, demanding, hostile, manipulative, even violent.

Problems with alcohol or drug use, mood disorders, certain anxiety or eating disorders, suicidal thoughts or attempts, and sexual problems often accompany personality disorders.

People living with personality disorders have attributes that cause them to feel and act in an inappropriate or distressing ways in which often limit functioning abilities. Behavioural tendencies may impose an impairment of functioning, and serious difficulty with achieving daily responsibilities. There are ten personality disorders, and each can be categorized into three distinct classes of mental disorders. Personality disorders can be difficult to treat and often involves a change in thought. Therapy is a critical aspect of treatment for all types of personality disorders.

The symptoms of personality disorders are varied and depend on the type of disorder the individual is experiencing. Since many of the symptoms are common across various personality disorders, an individual may exhibit signs of more than one personality disorder.

There are three personality disorders that describe people with social avoidance or low sociability issues. These are:

Paranoid Personality Disorder, which is a tendency to mistrust others and to suspect that their motives are hurtful

Schizoid Personality Disorder, which a tendency to not be able to relate to other people and to have a restricted range of emotional expression

Schizotypal Personality Disorder, which is a tendency to feel very uncomfortable in close relationships, and to have odd or distorted thoughts or perceptions

There are another four types of personality disordersat that describe those who appear to be highly emotional and dramatic in social situations, and react to feelings with impulsive or spur-of-the-moment behaviour. These include:

Antisocial Personality Disorder, which is seen when one persistently ignores and violates the rights of others

Borderline Personality Disorder, which is a tendency to have unstable relationships, intense mood changes, rapidly shifting self-image, high levels of anxiety, including chronic worrying and intense panic, and noticeably impulsive behaviour

Histrionic Personality Disorder, which is a tendency to be highly emotional in social situations

Narcissistic Personality Disorder, with its pattern of feeling overly important, needing admiration from others and having a lack of empathy

Additionally, there are three other personality disorders that describe people who seem very cautious and fearful:

Avoidant Personality Disorder, which includes extreme shyness, feeling inadequate or ‘not good enough', and being very sensitive to criticism

Dependent Personality Disorder, which involves a tendency of needing to be led in making decisions, clinging to others and having an extreme need to be taken care of

Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder, which is a pattern of constantly needing things to be orderly and of wanting to be in control

It is important to remember that all of us may experience some of the characteristics of personality disorders from time to time in our lives in varying degrees. But an actual personality disorder is defined by the extremes of several traits and by the rather inflexible way these traits are expressed, as well as their influence on our activities and relationships of day-to-day life.

Symptoms of personality disorders are usually first displayed in childhood or adolescence and usually go on for a long time. However, this depends to some extent, on the type of personality disorder and the situation or events surrounding the individual. Borderline personality disorder, for example, usually peaks in adolescence and early adulthood, and may become less prominent by mid-adulthood in some individuals, or not. On the other hand, narcissistic personality disorder may not be identified until middle age.

Personality disorders also have a major effect on the people who are close to the individual experiencing them. The individual’s fixed ideas and patterns of behaviour make it difficult for them to adjust to various situations. As a result, other people adjust to them. This creates a major strain on all relationships among family and close friends, and in the workplace. At the same time, when other people do not adjust, the individual with the personality disorder can become angry, frustrated, depressed or withdrawn. This establishes a vicious cycle of interaction, causing the individuals to persist with their stressful behaviour until their needs are met.


The symptoms of personality disorders are usually caused by a variety of factors, including early life experience and learned behaviours, social environment, biological make up and genetics. Individuals with personality disorders may have impaired regulation of the brain circuits that control emotion. This biological finding, when combined with psychological and social factors such as abuse, neglect or separation, may put a person at a higher risk of developing a personality disorder.

Treatment and Therapy

Genesee Counselling is committed to working with individuals who experience and deal with personality disorders and thoughts and feelings related to the above mentioned symptoms. Furthermore an experienced counsellor is able to identify these personalities and hopefully provide tactics to address the systemic root causes and provide coping strategies unique to each disorder. Therapy has proven very helpful and useful to individuals experiencing these different disorders and Genesee is committed to helping you get past your own disorder and see it as merely one aspect of your life. Through useful skills and dedicated practice you will be able to overcome these thoughts and feelings and beat your disorder.