According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), a personality disorder can be defined as being a pattern of behaviors and experiences that are different from the individual’s cultural experiences. Personality disorders are broken down into three main categories, each of which has subcategories. Cluster A personality disorders include eccentric or odd disorders. Cluster B personality disorders include emotional, dramatic, or erratic disorders. Cluster C personality disorders include anxiety and fear disorders.
While many mental health problems can be treated with medications or behavioral therapy where negative consequences are realized, people with personality disorders will not see symptoms improve with medication or negative consequences. Even though the symptoms of some mental health problems and personality disorders may seem quite similar, the underlying causes and the treatment methods are very different. The only way to effectively assist a person suffering from a personality disorder is to help them realize that their behavior is unacceptable and help them learn more socially acceptable ways to interact with others and express their feelings.
Avoidant Personality Disorder
People with avoidant personality disorder may seem to others to suffer from stage fright or appear to be extremely shy. The patient will have anxiety over social interactions and will usually avoid situations that have a social aspect and may seek employment in fields that do require very little interpersonal contact. They may feel inadequate and be overly sensitive to criticism and rejection. They will likely feel as though being accepted socially is not something they can achieve, even though they strongly desire it.
Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder
This is possibly the most well known of all the personality disorders. It has been famously portrayed in the popular sitcom Monk. A person with obsessive-compulsive personality disorder will often appear to be a perfectionist, because the results of their actions will never seem to be good enough. They set standards for themselves that are impossibly high and may be inflexible in their desire for things to be just right. These patients will often be preoccupied with rules, details, lists, organization, order, and schedules. Their preoccupation may become obsessive and interfere with their daily lives.
Dependant Personality Disorder
A person with a dependant personality disorder may be described by friends and family as being needy or clingy. They will have a heightened need to be taken care of and may want others to make decisions for them. They will likely have a fear of rejection and not handle the ending of relationships well. They are usually hypersensitive to criticism and may seek constant reassurance.
Treating a patient with a personality disorder can be quite challenging because often they will not realize that their actions and thoughts are abnormal. What has your experience been with patients with Cluster C personality disorders? What was the most challenging aspect of their treatment?