Personality disorders

Explains personality disorders, including possible causes and how you can access treatment and support. Includes tips for helping yourself, and guidance for friends and family.

Your stories

Having a BPD diagnosis - my reality

Rebecca's account of being diagnosed with borderline personality disorder.

Posted on 21/11/2014

A disordered personality?

Debbie talks about her experience of borderline personality disorder.

Posted on 30/07/2014

"What are you like when you're well?"

Louise talks about how her response when she was asked this question.

Posted on 27/04/2015

What is a personality disorder?

The word ‘personality’ refers to the pattern of thoughts, feelings and behaviour that makes each of us the individuals that we are. These affect the way we think, feel and behave towards ourselves and others.

We don't always think, feel and behave in exactly the same way – it depends on the situation we are in, the people with us and many other things. But we mostly tend to behave in fairly predictable ways.

Personality disorders are a type of mental health problem where your attitudes, beliefs and behaviours cause you longstanding problems in your life. Your experience of personality disorder is unique to you. However, you may often experience difficulties in how you think about yourself and others. You may find it difficult to change these unwanted patterns.

What are the signs of a personality disorder?
Does it mean there's something wrong with who I am?
Who can diagnose me with a personality disorder?

One minute I'm up and the next I'm down. It's like being on an emotional rollercoaster but without the fun.

What are the signs of a personality disorder?

You might be given a diagnosis of personality disorder if all three of these apply:

  • The way you think, feel and behave causes you or others significant problems in daily life. For example, you may feel unable to trust others or you may often feel abandoned, causing you or others unhappiness.
  • The way you think, feel and behave causes significant problems across different aspects of your life. You may struggle to start or keep friendships, to control your feelings and behaviour or get on with people at work, for example.
  • These problems continue for a long time. These difficult patterns may have started when you were a child or teenager and can carry on into your life as an adult.

You may welcome your diagnosis, finding it a way to make sense of your experience. Or you may find it more difficult to come to terms with.

Does it mean there's something wrong with who I am?

No. We all have parts of our personality that are troublesome to ourselves and others.

If you have a personality disorder it doesn't mean that you're fundamentally different from anyone else, but at times you might need extra help. (See Self-care for tips on how to cope).

It's hard to explain and it has a major impact on all of my relationships. I see things in black and white, there are no grey areas.

Who can diagnose me with a personality disorder?

You can only be diagnosed with a personality disorder by a mental health professional, such as a psychiatrist – not by your GP.

If you speak to your GP about your mental health and they think you might have a personality disorder, they can refer you to your local community mental health team (CMHT) who will be able to assess you.

Initially I took this diagnosis of BDP as an insult, a criticism of my whole being, but then I began to understand that it is just a diagnosis, an explanation of why I feel as I do. Just as in a medical situation the pain in my stomach being diagnosed as appendicitis means that I am ill, there is a reason for the pain and I can get treatment.

This information was published in August 2016. We will revise it in 2019.

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