The word ‘personality’ refers to the pattern of thoughts, feelings and behaviour that makes each of us the individuals that we are.
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 mostly we do tend to behave in fairly predictable ways or patterns. And so we can be described as shy, selfish, lively, and so on. We each have a set of these patterns, and this set makes up our personality.
Generally speaking, personality doesn’t change very much, but it does develop as we go through different experiences in life and as our circumstances change. So, as we mature with time, our thinking, feelings and behaviour all change.
If you have a personality disorder, you are likely to find this more difficult. Your patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving are more difficult to change and you will have a more limited range of emotions, attitudes and behaviours with which to cope with everyday life. This can make things difficult for you or for other people.
Personality disorders usually become noticeable in adolescence or early adulthood, but sometimes start in childhood. They can make it difficult for you to start and keep friendships or other relationships, and you may find it hard to work effectively with others.
The term ‘personality disorder’ can sound very judgemental. Your personality is the core of your self, and to be told it is ‘disordered’ can be very upsetting and undermining.
Personality disorders often improve as you get older. This suggests that as you gain life experience and mature you learn better ways of relating to others, gain better understanding of your response and reactions to people and events, and learn to manage things better.
Successful treatments aim to help you make this happen by focusing on the way you think and behave, how to control your emotions, developing successful relationships and getting more out of life.