Personality Disorder Treatment
Successful personality disorder treatment isn't easy. According to the American Psychological Association, up to 30 percent of people needing mental health treatment have at least one personality disorder. Treatment for personality disorders typically involves psychological therapy lasting at least six months, usually longer. The length of treatment depends on the type of personality disorder, the severity of the disorder and whether the patient has any co-existing conditions.
Psychotherapy for Personality Disorder Treatment
Psychotherapy for personality disorder treatment involves discussing thoughts, feelings, emotions, and the patient's inner experiences with a licensed, trained professional. All types of psychotherapy work toward the common goal of improving a person's ability to regulate thoughts and emotions.
Mental health professionals employ a range of psychotherapies in treating personality disorders, including:
Psychodynamic, or Reflective, Psychotherapy
This type of psychotherapy is based on the belief that many inappropriate and damaging adult behaviors stem from negative childhood experiences. These negative experiences result in the distorted thinking and beliefs that may not cause problems in childhood, but are damaging in adulthood. The therapist guides the individual in exploring the distorted thinking and helps him or her understand how it came about. The therapy then focuses on identifying ways to overcome these thought patterns and breaking their influence on the person's life.
Both individual and group psychodynamic therapy may be helpful in personality disorder treatment.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) ascribes to the idea that how we perceive a circumstance or situation determines how we respond to it. Likewise, our actions affect how we think and feel – our inner experience. With CBT, the therapist works to change the thinking patterns and the associated behaviors together. Mental health experts have found some success with a type of CBT called dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). Used in personality disorders treatment, DBT seeks to help individuals cope with their own emotional instability while also choosing more positive behaviors in response to circumstances.
Interpersonal therapy (IPT) is based on the idea that a person's relationship with others and the external environment has a powerful influence over mental health. A number of personality disorders involve feelings of low self-worth, self-doubt, and anxiety, arising out of poor interpersonal skills and issues interacting with others. The therapist explores an individual's issues with interpersonal relationships and identifies how to resolve these problems.
Group Support Communities and Personality Disorder Treatment
Therapeutic support groups involve a type of group therapy involving in-depth exploration of what it's like to have a personality disorder. It's an intensive form of therapy, requiring a high level of commitment for success. Time commitment can range from one day a week to 9am-5pm, 5 days a week.
Treating Personality Disorders with Medication
Treating personality disorders using psychiatric medication isn't common because there are no drugs specifically approved for doing so. But many people with personality disorders have other mental health issues for which they may take medication. For example, a doctor may prescribe an antidepressant to someone suffering from depression along with a personality disorder.
Last Updated: 20 July 2016
Reviewed by Harry Croft, MD