What Is A Personality Disorder?
Personality disorders are a group within mental illness and refer to when someone exhibits a pattern of rigid behaviors leading to extreme distress. These unhealthy patterns of functioning, and thinking, typically lead the individual exhibiting them into strained or difficult relationships with family, friends, and others. Patterns of behavior associated with personality disorders are often displayed by adolescence or early adulthood. When not addressed or treated, these behaviors are typically inflexible and long-lasting.
What Causes A Personality Disorder?
Personality disorders have an array of factors to consider within both genetics and environment. It is generally thought that it is a combination of these two categories that causes a personality disorder. While genes may make one vulnerable to a personality disorder, it may be an environmental factor that actually triggers the development of one.
Researchers continue to study genetic factors, looking for links between personality disorders and malfunctioning genes. They are also exploring evidence that correlates genetics and particular behavioral responses like aggression and anxiety as these traits are often tied to personality disorders.
There is also ongoing research examining the relationship between personality disorders and above-average sensitivity to stimuli. This is experienced as high reactivity to stimulants such as lighting, noise, and touch.
Certain environmental factors seem to play a large role in increasing the likelihood of a personality disorder. These include:
- Childhood trauma – this can take the form of physical or sexual abuse, but may also be dysfunctional family systems or neglect
- Verbal abuse – even verbal abuse alone can increase the chances of personality disorder
- Support systems – having at least one peer, parental unit, teacher or neighbor can help offset other negative influences
Signs of Personality Disorder
It can be difficult to determine a personality disorder, particularly if co-occurring with addiction. Also, many personality disorders share similar symptoms, so determining a specific disorder is challenging.
The following are some signs that a loved one may have a personality disorder:
- They have trouble socializing well with other people.
- They have difficulty keeping long-term relationships with lovers, friends, family.
- They experience consistent problems with finding or holding jobs.
- They seem unable to function during periods of high stress.
Personality Disorder And Addiction
Substance abuse and alcohol abuse frequently co-occur with personality disorders. In fact, dual diagnosis (addiction and personality disorders) are extremely common. That is because the two conditions are linked in several ways.
It’s possible that the genetic and environmental factors that cause drug and alcohol addiction also encourage the development of personality disorders. It’s also possible that prolonged substance abuse will lead to mental illness, such as deep depression.
Conversely, personality disorders may lead to substance or alcohol abuse disorder. People with personality disorders are often struggling with intense emotional pain. The use of drugs or alcohol may be a means to try and escape these feelings. Seeking relief, a person with a personality disorder may begin increasing use and develop an addiction.
Personality Disorder, Addiction, & Interventions
Substance abuse disorders and personality disorders are beset with shame and feeling awful. I use and love the invitational approach to interventions that prioritize respect and compassion to help minimize those feelings.
A successful interventionist is a good social worker or a professional with a solid family systems theory background. At the end of the day, an intervention is a family meeting, guided by a skilled professional, where a loved one is invited to change.
The families are also prepared for the intervention. Time must be spent understanding all the players and connections to the identified individual.
The families are education on dual diagnosis, learning about both addiction and personality disorders. They are coached on how to find recovery and take care of themselves as well. I start with where the family is at, and the main key to an intervention is being willing to always tell the truth.
I have performed many interventions where the identified loved one is tremendously grateful that the family is offering a gift of health. They, too, have grown tired of the life they are living and understand they need help.
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