Personality Disorders

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personality disorders

May 27, 2021 / By thadmin2

What are personality disorders?

Personality, as defined by the American Psychology Association, refers to “individual differences in characteristic patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving.” These individual differences play an essential role in our lives as they serve to regulate arousal, emotions, and behaviour. There are a multitude of personality models, however, the most widely accepted and used personality model consists of 5 main personality traits – Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism (Chmielewski & Morgan, 2013). 

Personality Disorders can be understood as variations or exaggerations of normal personality traits (The British Psychological Society, 2006). For example, an individual diagnosed with Schizoid personality disorder is likely to score extremely low on the Extraversion scale. This cluster of disorders are characterized by rigid patterns of thinking, and according to Adshead & Sarkar (2012), individuals with personality disorders may experience dysfunction in 3 aspects – Intrapersonal, Interpersonal, and Social.

  • Intrapersonal component: Impaired ability to effectively control emotional and arousal systems in the presence of stress. Individuals who experience dysfunction in this component tend to feel hyper-aroused(over responsive) or hypo-aroused(under responsive) in stressful situations.
  • Interpersonal component: Impaired ability to form functional attachment with others. Individuals who experience dysfunction in this component may either get too close to others or detach themselves from others. The diminished ability to form functional attachments often serves as an additional stressor, leading to heightened risks of disorders developing.
  • Social component: Impaired ability for social behaviours. Individuals who experience dysfunction in this component may frequently find themselves in conflict with others often because of distrust, social withdrawal or poor socioemotional regulation. 

Personality disorders often take root early in life and last a lifetime. This results in a deeply seated dysfunctional pattern of thinking and distortion of reality, making it difficult for individuals with personality disorder to recognize the presence of the disorder because their actions and thinking processes often seem normal to themselves (Mayo Clinic, 2016). Furthermore, these disorders tend to affect multiple aspects of functioning which often leads to severe distress (Adshead & Sarkar, 2012). 


What are the types of personality disorders?

There are 3 clusters of personality disorders (Fagin, 2004): 

  1. Cluster A – Characterized by odd and eccentric patterns of thinking and behaviours. Personality disorders under this cluster include Paranoid Personality Disorder, Schizoid Personality Disorder, and Schizotypal Personality Disorder. Individuals who fall into this cluster may also often experience more than one psychological disorder. Some common disorders these individuals might experience are mood disorders such as depression or anxiety disorders.
  2. Cluster B – Characterized by dramatic, emotional or erratic patterns of thinking and behaviours. This consists of Borderline Personality Disorder, Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Antisocial Personality Disorder, and Hysterical Personality Disorder. Individuals who fall into this cluster tend to be overly emotional or behave unpredictably.
  3. Cluster C – Characterized by anxious and fearful patterns of thinking and behaviours. They include Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder, Avoidant Personality Disorder, and Dependent Personality Disorder


What types of therapies do Thrive Psychology Clinic provide for children and youths with Personality Disorders?

Depending on the type and the severity of the personality disorder, different therapy methods are used for treatment. Here at Thrive Psychology Clinic, we have found effectiveness in employing Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) alongside Virtual Reality Therapy (VRT) in order to treat individuals with personality disorders suitable for this form of treatment. 

As previously mentioned, individuals with personality disorders often harbour highly dysfunctional patterns of thinking. CBT is an effective form of treatment for personality disorders as it emphasizes on changing those deeply seated dysfunctional patterns of thinking known as core beliefs. Generally, CBT contains 3 components: cognitive, behavioural and imagery. The cognitive component seeks to help individuals identify, assess and restructure their core beliefs. Behavioural techniques are then used to address any maladaptive behaviours and replace them with more helpful coping skills and strategies. Lastly, imagery can be used to help restructure past experiences that might have caused distress. 

VRT is a powerful complementary tool for managing personality disorders as it improves the efficacy of the behavioural and imagery components of CBT. VRT customises and exposes clients to virtual simulations of real world settings and situations that may be difficult to visualise or are avoided and feared by them. Furthermore, the therapist is able to control the environment, ensuring that exposures to these feared or anxiety-provoking situations are  administered at a safe and manageable level to the client. 

While we have seen the value of combining CBT and VRT in the management of personality disorders, we also recognise that there is no one-size-fits-all treatment for all individuals. Given that therapy is a highly collaborative process, clients will get to work closely with their mental health professionals to find out what works best for them. 


Parenting a child with Personality Disorder.

Caring for someone with personality disorders may be challenging and is often stressful. 

Although these individuals may act aggressively and defensive, it is crucial that we encourage them to seek help as soon as possible. It is imperative that we treat them with compassion and express your concerns while avoiding butting heads. Check out this video for a first hand account of what we can do as parents for a child dealing with personality disorder. 

Here at Thrive Psychology Clinic, we are committed to helping every child, adolescent and youth who might be facing distress. If you suspect your child might be facing any form of distress, feel free to contact us via email: or call: 6962 9753.



  • Adshead, G., & Sarkar, J. (2012). The nature of personality disorder. Advances in Psychiatric Treatment, 18(3), 162-172. doi:10.1192/apt.bp.109.006981
  • Chmielewski M.S., Morgan T.A. (2013) Five-Factor Model of Personality. In: Gellman M.D., Turner J.R. (eds) Encyclopedia of Behavioral Medicine. Springer, New York, NY.
  • Fagin, L. (2004). Management of personality disorders in acute in-patient settings. Part 1: Borderline personality disorders. Advances in Psychiatric Treatment, 10(2), 93-99. doi:10.1192/apt.10.2.93
  • Mayo Clinic. (2016, September 23). Personality Disorders. Retrieved from Mayo Clinic:
  • The British Psychological Society. (2006, July). Understanding personality disorder. Retrieved from The Psychologist: