*This newsletter is intended to offer information only and recognizes that individual issues may differ from those broad guidelines. Personal issues should be addressed within a therapeutic context with a professional familiar with the details of the problem. Copyright 2018 Simmonds Publications: 550 La Jolla Blvd., 306, La Jolla, CA 92037
We all have our own unique ways of feeling and thinking and expressing ourselves. Most of the time, our uniqueness is seen as an individual difference, or something special about each of us. In fact, this is what brings interest and variety to the people in our lives. This is a positive thing. One of the healthiest things we can do is to achieve a fairly objective understanding of just how we are unique or different from other people. Then we can understand how our behavior impacts other people and adjust the way we act accordingly. That is, we can problem solve our way through situations when we have a good understanding of our unique personality characteristics. We are talking here about personality style, and all of us have our own styles.
Some of us though have personalities that vary significantly from the expectations found within the culture. This can involve patterns of feeling, thinking, impulse control, and interpersonal functioning that cause direct distress, sometimes to the person, but especially to those around the person. If the pattern is enduring and pervasive (meaning it persists over time and can be found across a broad range of situations), then it might meet the criteria for a personality disorder. One of the features of a personality disorder is that the person may not realize how their behavior affects others, and that’s why it continues over time and with variety of different people. So, a person with a personality disorder may have difficulty with problem-solving, which impairs their ability to adapt to life‘s challenges. People with personality disorders don’t feel distressed about their personality traits, but may suffer from the way others react to them. Personality disorders seem to begin fairly early in life, and unless changes are made, they may continue on through the person’s adulthood. It is important to realize that the behavior of those with personality disorders may have served a positive function at one point in the person’s life, but now those behaviors are an ingrained part of the personality (although they no longer serve the person well). They actually work against the person’s ability to adapt.
Professional therapists help to address a number of problems in everyday living, such as mood and thinking disorders, anxiety, impulse control, problems, or addictive behavior. Personality disorders fall into their own category, however. That is, personality disorders may, or may not, be related to those more traditional areas of treatment. For example, a person suffering from depression may, or may not, also have a personality disorder. Fortunately, there is help for people suffering from personality disorders, as well as their families, work colleagues, and close friends. In most cases people who suffer from a personality disorder can learn to make changes in the behavior that causes distress. It’s not really feasible to say that therapist can “cure“ a personality disorder, but they can have the person learn to manage life’s details and responsibilities better.
A trained professional therapist is able to provide a setting in which seemingly intractable problems can be addressed. A feeling of safety is built between a therapist and a client, and that’s opened the door to try new behaviors with support which have seemed impossible until now. A whole new world awaits those who give it a try.