The term ‘personality disorder’ is deeply unfortunate, because by suggesting someone has a disordered personality, this can be deeply stigmatising and undermine a persons self-confidence.
The term ‘personality disorder’ arose because psychiatrists were finding that in some patients the core mental health problems they were treating with standard medical and psychotherapeutic methods were extremely difficult to shift by standard means.
Eventually these ‘treatment resistant’ individuals were researched more thoroughly, and it became necessary to classify them in some way for research and administrative reasons.
All the term ‘personality disorder’ means is that a person has on-going persistent difficulties that usually start in childhood.
Personality disorders form into two ‘bunches’.
One bunch is people who over control their emotions.
Another bunch is people who are unable to control their emotions.
It turns out that psychotherapists have been treating this population all along!
Psychotherapy is a way of helping people with long term, complex issues.
As a psychotherapist I’m more interested in the individual circumstances that have led to a persons on-going difficulties.
Sometimes, to help me do this, I give my client a personality test called a ‘schema questionnaire’.
This questionnaire helps us to identify the underlying beliefs a person picked up in childhood.
As a consequence, I am more interested in the circumstances the unhelpful beliefs were formed.
When we know the circumstances, we can use a variety of psychotherapy techniques to change those beliefs.
We might use cognitive behavioural psychotherapy, cognitive hypnotherapy, transactional analyses, or eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR) to name but a few.
If you have been told you have a personality disorder, or suspect you might have one, I would be happy to hear from you.