Personality is intrinsic to a person’s identity. It is how we as individuals usually think, feel, act and relate with one another. Our personalities are shaped by our upbringing, the culture we live in and the prevailing societal norms. When a person’s usual ways of thinking, feeling, relating to others and to their own selves become extreme within the society they live in, these “out of the ordinary” personalities can be classiﬁed as personality disorders.
Personality disorders develop from an early age and become evident in adolescence. However, a diagnosis should not be made until the person reaches adulthood (i.e. 21 years).
Because our personalities affect the way we view and interact with the world, people diagnosed with personality disorders may have the following signs:
Generally, people diagnosed with personality disorder can be quite rigid in the ways they think, feel and behave and trying to get them to conform to different ways of dealing with life will only make them more distressed.
Research suggests that persons with personality disorders tend to fall into three groups - Clusters A, B & C. Some people appear to act in slightly odd and eccentric manners and tend to move away from others and become socially isolated. These are individuals who do not wish to form a relationship with others (Cluster A personalities of paranoid, schizoid and schizotypal disorders). Another group appears to move towards people to deal with their lives in fearful and dependent ways but are unable to form healthy relationships and tend to be quite clingy (Cluster C personalities of anxious, dependent and obsessive-compulsive personalities). They appear to be at the opposite extreme from the ﬁrst group. In between these two groups are people who come across as extreme and erratic in their behaviours and who tend to move against others in aggressive and violent ways. (Cluster B personalities like Borderline, Antisocial, Narcissistic and Histrionic disorders).
At present, treatment for personality disorder usually includes psychological (counselling and psychotherapy) and physical (medication) treatments, but the cornerstone of treatment is psychotherapy. Depending on the individual, therapy work can vary from weeks to years. Medication is used only as an adjunct to talking therapies, and never alone in a treatment regime.
Family and friends are critical in the person’s recovery. It is important to be present, non-critical and non-judgmental as they person shares what they’re struggling with. Avoid imposing your own values and ideas, but simply be present and listen. Caregivers often need support themselves, and they can do this by approaching or seeking a referral to a Family Service Centre, or call local helplines like the Samaritans of Singapore (1800-221-4444), the Singapore Association for Mental Health (1800-283-7019), or IMH (6389-2200).
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