Personality Disorders Part 4

When should you see a doctor?

If you have symptoms or signs of a personality disorder, you should discuss your concerns with your doctor, a primary care professional, or mental health professional. If left untreated, personality disorders can potentially cause significant issues in your life. Personality disorders can also get worse if they are not properly treated.

Causes of Personality Disorders

A personality is a combination of thoughts, behaviors, and emotions that make every person unique. Personality consists of how you see yourself as well as the way you view, understand, and relate to the outside world. Personality forms during childhood and is shaped through a variety interactions including:

  • Genes- Some personality traits can be passed on to you by your parents through inherited genes. These traits are often referred to as a person’s general temperament.
  • Environment- Involving the surroundings you grew up in, events that occurred, and relationships that are formed with family members and others.

It is believed that personality disorders are caused by a combination of these genetic and environmental influences. While genes may make a person vulnerable to developing a personality disorder, an environment or life situation may trigger the actual development of a personality disorder.

Risk Factors of Personality Disorders

While the exact cause of personality disorders is not known, there are specific factors believed to increase the risk of developing or triggering personality disorders. These include:

  • Family history of personality disorders or other mental illness
  • Abusive, unhealthy or chaotic family life during childhood
  • The diagnosis of a childhood conduct disorder
  • Variations in brain chemistry and structure

Potential Complications

A personality disorder can significantly affect and disrupt the lives of both the affected person and those who care about them. Personality disorders typically cause problems with relationships, including work or school. They can also lead to social isolation or alcohol or drug abuse.

Diagnosis of Personality Disorders

If you show signs or symptoms of a personality disorder, consult with your doctor. If your doctor also suspects that you may have a personality disorder, a diagnosis can be determined through the following measures:

  • Physical Exam- The doctor may do a physical exam and ask detailed questions regarding your health. In some cases, your symptoms may be linked to an underlying physical health problem. This physical evaluation may also include lab tests and a screening test for alcohol or drug abuse.
  • Psychiatric Evaluation- This evaluation includes a discussion about your feelings, thoughts, and behaviors. This may also include a questionnaire to help pinpoint a diagnosis. Your doctor may also ask your permission to gather information from family members or others may be helpful to your diagnosis.
  • Diagnostic Criteria in the DSM-5- Your doctor may compare your symptoms to the criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), published by the American Psychiatric Association.

Diagnostic Criteria

Every personality disorder has its own set of diagnostic criteria. However, according to the DSM-5, generally the diagnosis of personality disorders includes long-term marked deviation from cultural expectations. This commonly leads to significant distress or impairment in at least two of these areas:

  • The way you perceive and interpret yourself, other people and events
  • The level of appropriateness of your emotional responses
  • How well you function when dealing with other people and in relationships
  • Whether you can control your impulses

Since many of the personality disorders share similar symptoms, it can be difficult to determine the type of personality disorder. Additionally, more than one type of personality disorder can be present.

Other disorders such as depression, anxiety or substance abuse may further complicate diagnosis. However, it is worth the effort and time to get an accurate diagnosis in order to receive proper treatment.

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