What Defines a Personality Disorder?

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In addiction recovery, people receive treatment not only for their substance use disorder (SUD) but also for any co-occurring disorders they have. Anxiety and depression are more frequently mentioned when we think about co-occurring disorders and dual diagnosis. However, if you have a personality disorder, it is just as important to get treatment for it during your recovery journey.

Having an untreated personality disorder can impact your recovery. After all, symptoms of personality disorders can make people more likely to turn to substances to cope. Of course, using substances can worsen symptoms in the long run.

Fortunately, treatment is available at Pathways Recovery Center.

Defining Personality Disorders

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) uses a definition of personality disorders from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual on Mental Health Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5). According to this definition, personality disorders involve “an enduring pattern of inner experience and behavior that deviates markedly from the expectations of the individual’s culture."

A personality disorder can affect anybody regardless of age, race, background, or gender. However, they are most commonly diagnosed when an individual is a teenager or young adult.

Often, people with personality disorders don't realize that they have one. If others in their lives become concerned and suggest treatment, people with personality disorders may be hesitant to get help. They may see no problems with their behavior because they aren't used to thinking or being any other way.

How Can Having a Personality Disorder Impact Addiction Recovery?

Having an untreated personality disorder affects the way that people think and behave. This can make it harder for people to reach their goals, including their goals in recovery. Untreated personality disorders can also negatively impact relationships. This can make people feel isolated, which is a major issue in addiction recovery.

If you are in addiction recovery, it is important to find out if you have a personality disorder. Otherwise, it may continue to affect your recovery without you realizing it.

The Most Common Personality Disorders

There are many different personality disorders. The following are some of the most common.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder

People with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) tend to have a skewed vision of themselves. A person with NPD may put themselves on a pedestal and consider themselves to be more important than others.

This individual may struggle to hold back from trying to compete with others or show off. They may find themselves constantly bragging about their achievements and dreaming about achieving even more.

Often, people with NPD may never seem satisfied with what they have. They may obsess over increasing their achievements or enhancing their looks. Additionally, they may talk about themselves frequently and expect praise from others often. This can seem off-putting to others and strain relationships.

Dissociative Personality Disorder

Someone with a dissociative personality disorder will experience a disconnect between themselves and the world around them. They may struggle to understand their identity and what their place is in this world.

This individual may exhibit few if any emotions and struggle to relate and connect with others. They may purposefully try to escape reality to avoid painful memories. Unfortunately, if they seek this escape by using marijuana or other substances, they are increasing their risk of addiction.

Dependent Personality Disorder

Someone with a dependent personality disorder will struggle with independence and will need to constantly be dependent upon others. They may stay in abusive or toxic relationships because they don't believe that they deserve better or will find someone else, and they are terrified of being alone.

These individuals may lack confidence and not want to take responsibility for themselves. This can make the process of addiction recovery more difficult.

Paranoid Personality Disorder

Someone with a paranoid personality disorder (PPD) will struggle with unrelenting and often illogical worry. They may constantly think that someone is looking at them or talking about them. These individuals may always worry that a family member or friend is mad at them when they have no reason to be. They may be prone to being highly superstitious. 

Their relationships may suffer because they are continuously misreading people and situations. They may also take a well-meaning comment from someone as a personal attack or insult. As a result, many people with PPD find themselves socially isolated.

Antisocial Personality Disorder

Someone with an antisocial personality disorder will struggle to connect with other people and will have trouble perceiving others' emotions. They may come across as very uncaring. This is because they may say and do things that are hurtful to others without understanding what they are doing.

These individuals may display aggressive or violent behavior. They may struggle to feel remorse when they have hurt someone. In recovery, this can make the process of making amends very challenging.

Histrionic Personality Disorder

Someone with a histrionic personality disorder will come across as always seeking attention. They may long for the spotlight to be on them and may do seemingly anything to have everyone's attention.

Someone with this type of disorder may adopt the personalities or mannerisms of other people. They may spend a lot of time looking in the mirror and obsessing over their appearance. This is yet another personality disorder that can lead to isolation.

How Are Personality Disorders Treated?

People who have personality disorders are not bad people in any way. This is simply the way that their brain works. They may fail to see how their behavior could come across as off-putting or even offensive to others. Thus, they may continue acting in the same way, wreaking havoc in their own life.

The good news is that personality disorders can be treated. At Pathways Recovery Center, we take into consideration all disorders that our clients have, including personality disorders, to create individualized treatment plans. With therapy and sometimes prescription medication as well, a patient can begin to live a normal life. In some cases, their symptoms may completely resolve.

It is not always known what causes personality disorders or why some people have them and others don't. Two primary factors that are likely to contribute are a person's genes and their environment. Someone who struggles with a personality disorder may come across as being rude when they are simply not aware or not in control of their actions. Some people turn to substance misuse to cope. If you or someone you know is struggling with substance misuse, our team at Pathways Recovery Center can help. Call (888) 771-0966 today and a member of our team will be happy to talk to you about the different mental health and recovery services that we provide.

Clinically reviewed by 

Moses Nasser
Dr. Moses Nasser, a double board-certified physician in Family Medicine and Addiction Medicine, with expertise in holistic healing, addiction medicine, and psychiatric care, holds an X-waiver to prescribe buprenorphine and has extensive experience in mindfulness-based customer service and medication-assisted treatment.

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