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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.
There are a range of treatments that can help you if you experience a personality disorder. These include:
For information on how to access treatment for a personality disorder and how to have a say in your treatment, see our information on:
"All my life I have felt different, alienated and completely alone. It is only since my diagnosis of BPD that I began to understand why and, with help, to realise that I could actually do something to change those feelings and feel that I can achieve a life worth living."
More research needs to be done into which talking therapies can help people with personality disorders. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) – the organisation that produces guidelines on best practice in health care – suggests that the following kinds of talking therapies may be helpful:
"The one-to-one sessions I received were invaluable. My therapist was able to help me understand the DBT skills I was learning and help me to apply them to my life. My greatest lesson was to learn to fail and to accept that this and continued practise was the key to using DBT."
"Mentalisation is best summed up as "thinking about thinking". It is being able to understand our own mental state and that of other people, and how this effects our behaviour. I identified with it immediately, as I really struggle with identifying what my emotions are and where they come from."
NICE says that other types of talking therapy could also potentially be helpful, including the following:
Therapeutic communities are programmes where you spend time in a group supporting each other to recover, with the help of a facilitator. Most therapeutic communities are residential (often in a large house) where you might stay for all or part of the week. Activities can include different types of individual or group therapy, as well as household chores and social activities. The Consortium for Therapeutic Communities provides a directory of therapeutic communities in the UK.
"I spent 18 months as part of a Therapeutic Community, and I'm not exaggerating when I say it's changed my life. My mood swings are far less frequent, and it's rare that they reach the extremes that they used to."
There are no drugs specifically licensed for the treatment of personality disorders. Many people with personality disorders also have other mental health diagnoses though, such as depression, anxiety or psychosis, and may be prescribed medication for these.
If you receive NHS treatment, it should be in line with NICE guidelines. These say that:
You can read the principles of care for people with a personality disorder and full guidelines and additional recommendations for BPD in English or Welsh on the NICE website. For details of specialist services in the UK, see the UK Department of Health’s personality disorder website.
Waiting times for talking treatments on the NHS can unfortunately be long. If you feel that you don’t want to wait and you can afford the expense, or would like to see a therapist who specialises in the types of experiences you have had, you may choose to see a counsellor or psychotherapist privately.
See our pages on seeking private sector therapy for more information.
Lechelle and Debbie talk about having borderline personality disorder and how a combination of medication and dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT) has helped them develop the skills to manage it.
A really important factor in your treatment is the relationship you form with the professionals who are helping you – whether they are a social worker, psychiatric nurse, therapist or psychiatrist. Having good treatment also depends on you being actively involved in it and having your say. You should expect to:
"It was only when I met some dedicated professionals willing to go that extra mile that I started to change and believe in myself. I was able to begin therapy and develop a good trusting relationship which has been consistent and secure."
This information was published in January 2020. We will revise it in 2023.
References are available on request. If you would like to reproduce any of this information, see our page on permissions and licensing.