Dr Matthew Cullen, Psychiatrist, St Vincent’s Hospital, Sydney
What is a personality disorder is a huge question. It is perhaps one of the most challenging diagnostic categories in psychiatry or psychology.
In effect, with a personality disorder, there are enduring traits that cause disturbance in one’s interpersonal relationships, one’s work relationships or indeed in one’s broader social relationships. There are also a variety of different personality disorders which exhibit particular traits or particular patterns of behaviour.
There are about 9 different types of personality disorders. At one end of the spectrum, is an anti-social personality disorder, and at the other, there are milder forms of personality disorders such as obsessive personality disorder.
Commonly, there is a description of people with a personality disorder known as a borderline personality disorder. These individuals have a highly chaotic existence and a tendency to exhibit destructive behaviours in their interpersonal relationships.
Treatment for personality disorders is complicated and can take many years of psychological care. But what we do know is that over time, with the right treatment, as individuals get older, some of the manifestations of personality disorder do decrease.