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West London NHS Trust > Patients and carers > Mental and physical health conditions > Personality disorders

Personality disorders

What is a personality disorder?

A personality disorder affects a person’s behaviour and moods so that they distress both the person with the disorder and those around them. Their interpersonal skills and ways of handling situations will probably be seen by others as odd, confusing, or disruptive. Sometimes they are labelled as ‘difficult people’. Stress will increase the extent and extremity of this.
Some behaviours typically associated with those with personality disorders are impulsiveness, irritability, being fearful, needy or demanding, being hostile or manipulative, and even aggression leading to violence. This behaviour interferes with everyday life and makes it hard to form relationships.
Often, a person with a severe personality disorder has had a difficult childhood experiencing either neglect or abuse, or both. As a result, they have learned an anti-social way of coping with what ever life presents. Such anti-social behaviour is not simply the result of bad behaviour. Rather, it is a symptom of a psychological condition.
Having a personality disorder makes life very difficult, so other mental health problems (such as depression) are also common.
There are a number of personality disorders. These have been grouped for ease of reference by clinicians into three types of clusters, based on the particular symptoms a person experiences:

  • Cluster A – eccentric personality: odd, eccentric and paranoid behaviour.
  • Cluster B – dramatic personality: dramatic, erratic and antisocial behaviour.
  • Cluster C – anxious personality: anxious, inhibited and dependent behaviour.

How common are personality disorders?

Personality disorders affect men and women equally, and it is thought that between three and five in every 100 people has a personality disorder.
They are more common in younger people between the ages of 25 and 44.

Why is it important to get treatment?

A person with a personality disorder is at a higher risk of suicide or hurting themselves than other people because they are more likely to do impulsive or dangerous things.
Medication and talking treatments, such as counselling, can help a person to lead a normal life. At WLMHT, talking treatments focus on the whole person, not just the symptoms, helping a person to see how they can have more active control over their personality disorder and how it affects their life.

Living with a personality disorder

The moods and behaviour associated with most personality disorders usually begin to appear during childhood or the early teenage years. They do tend to improve slowly with age. Antisocial behaviour and impulsiveness, in particular, seem to reduce as a person gets older.
Treatment helps people understand the impact of their behaviour on others and recognise that there are alternative, more positive ways of handling situations. At WLMHT we can show a person how to manage and reduce their symptoms in a way that works specifically for them. They are given hope that they can lead a fulfilling life, take part in activities and develop relationships regardless of their personality disorder.

Care at WLMHT

The WLMHT care team works with a person in an equal partnership to determine the best way of treating their personality disorder. Together they look at a course of effective treatment that includes the person fully in all aspects of their care. It can also be helpful to include carers and friends in the treatment programme, and the WLHMT likes to encourage this, if appropriate.
Individualised care is central to WLMHT’s way of caring for and treating those with personality disorders. This includes taking into account each person’s diverse needs and personal treatment preferences.

Research at WLMHT

WLMHT is one of the most research-active mental health trusts in the UK. Patients and carers receiving treatment through our clinical service often benefit from participating in research. Patients and carers are encouraged to ask their doctor or nurse what research studies may be suitable for them.