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Understanding and Treating Personality Disorders

Personality Disorder (PD) is a type of mental disorder in which a person has trouble perceiving and relating to situations and people. Characteristics of Personality Disorders include patterns of rigid thinking, functioning, emotions, and behaviour.

The fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Personality Disorders (DSM-5) stated ten specific personality disorders. There are three clusters of Personality Disorders based on a similarity of characteristics, and they are:

  • Cluster A Personality Disorders: they involve unusual thinking or behaviours. It includes Paranoid Personality Disorder, Schizoid Personality Disorder, and Schizotypal Personality Disorder.

  • Cluster B Personality Disorders: they involve dramatic thinking or behaviours. It includes Antisocial Personality Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder, Histrionic Personality Disorder, and Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

  • Cluster C Personality Disorders: they involve intense anxieties and fears. It includes avoidant personality disorder, dependent personality disorder and Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD). OCPD differs from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), another mental health condition related to anxiety.

Each PD has its diagnostic criteria, though they may share similar characteristics. The general diagnosis for PD includes significant long-term distress in perceiving and interpreting self, others and events, out-of-norm emotional responses, difficulty in social functioning and impulse control. Some people may have more than one PD. As the disorder’s patterns of rigid thinking often cause relationship issues, it is common for people with PD to struggle with other mental health challenges, such as depression or anxiety.

The onset of PD is not explicit though genetics and environment are two common triggers. Factors that increase the risk of developing or triggering personality disorder include a history of abusive, neglectful, or unstable caregivers. Another aspect consists of a family history of personality disorders or other mental illnesses. Most, though not all, personality disorders impact a person's daily functioning and relationship with others. Personality disorder symptoms include difficulty with emotional regulation, lack of healthy coping skills, sense of worthlessness and hopelessness.

While there is no known cure for PDs, people with PD can effectively increase their daily functioning skills and relationship with others. Medication may be necessary to manage some symptoms, but psychotherapies are the most effective treatment method for PD. Psychotherapy helps increase coping skills and develop flexibility in thoughts and behaviours. Effective treatment methods for PD include Dialectic Behaviour Therapy (DBT) and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). Personality disorders triggered by traumatic childhood experiences, such as Borderline Personality Disorder, may benefit from Trauma-informed psychotherapy such as Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) or Internal Family System (IFS).

Restoring Peace Counselling and Consultancy offers psychotherapy for Personality Disorders and other mental health challenges. For more information, please visit or WhatsApp at +65 8889 1848.

Keywords: Singapore, mental health, private mental health clinic, personality disorders, diagnosis, childhood, anxiety, stress, depression, trauma

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