Personality Disorders: Spotting the Symptoms
Decode the telltale signs of unstable mental health.
Last Modified: 2012-04-25 | Tags »
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Avoidant personality disorder affects an individual's ability to interact in social situations. Watch this video where this disorder is discussed in more detail.
Transcript: Avoidant personality disorder, which affects about 1 to 2% of the American population, is a psychiatric...
Avoidant personality disorder, which affects about 1 to 2% of the American population, is a psychiatric condition in which a person has a lifelong pattern of feeling extremely shy, inadequate, and sensitive to rejection. It's completely normal to occasionally feel nervous or inadequate in social situations. But for people with Avoidant Personality Disorder, or AvPD, feelings of EXTREME shyness are a DAILY occurrence. People with avoidant personality disorder tend to be preoccupied with their own shortcomings. They form relationships with others ONLY if they believe they will not be rejected. Loss and rejection are SO painful that these people will choose to be lonely rather than risk trying to connect with others. They tend to feel that they are socially inept, unappealing, and inferior to others. Because of these social inhibitions, individuals with AvPD often avoid activities that involve significant contact with people. Generally, they prefer the loneliness of isolation to the possible rejection or pain of social relationships. In extreme situations, people with Avoidant Personality Disorder ALSO develop agoraphobia. Agoraphobia is a phobia that revolves around a fear of being in public places, or in crowds. It can also extend to include fear of social situations in general. Although people with AvPD are generally reluctant to engage in relationships, they may do so if they feel almost certain they won't be rejected. But even within these shaky relationships, AvPD sufferers tend to show exaggerated restraint and inhibition. This personality disorder is equally divided between males and females. The cause is unknown. But often, adults with Avoidant Personality Disorder experienced repeated parental rejection and criticism as children. They may ALSO struggle with disfiguring illnesses or circumstances, which make social situations more intimidating. Without treatment, a person with avoidant personality disorder may become resigned to a life of near or total isolation. They may go on to develop a second psychiatric disorder such as substance abuse or a mood disorder such as depression. The GOOD news about this condition is that people who have it usually DESIRE to develop close, healthy relationships. That means that talk therapy can be very helpful for treating the symptoms of AvPD. In particular, success has been shown with cognitive-behavioral therapy, or CBT. CBT combines behavioral therapy, like repeat exposure to social situations with cognitive therapy, such as discussing the underlying source of social inadequacy. Occasionally, anti-depressant medications can ALSO be used to help reduce sensitivity to rejection. The prognosis for people with Avoidant Personality Disorder is very good, so if you believe you're affected by the condition, please make an appointment to see a doctor.More »
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Personality disorders are more common than you realize. Quiz yourself to see how your perception stacks up to reality.
Last Modified: 2013-05-16 | Tags »
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Narcissistic personality disorder involves having a grandiose sense of importance, and a vain, egocentric personality. Watch this video to learn more about this personality disorder.
Transcript: Celebrity psychologist Dr. Drew Pinsky wrote an entire book about Narcissistic Personality Disorder,...
Celebrity psychologist Dr. Drew Pinsky wrote an entire book about Narcissistic Personality Disorder, a condition in which there is an inflated sense of self-importance and an extreme preoccupation with one's self. But how common IS this phenomenon? According to the American Psychological Association, only about one-percent of American adults suffer from Narcissistic Personality Disorder, which is a mental condition characterized by an inflated sense of self-importance and a deep need for admiration from others. Those with Narcissistic Personality disorder tend to take advantage of others to achieve their goals, and have a tendency to exaggerate their achievements and talents. Preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, and happiness, combined with an obsessive self-interest tend to characterize the person with this condition. As well, people with this disorder tend to disregard the feelings of others, demonstrating a serious lack of empathy. The former Playboy bunny, Anna Nicole Smith, is a perfect example of classic Narcissistic Personality Disorder, according to Dr. Drew. Like Anna Nicole, people with this condition believe that they are special and unique, and should ONLY associate with similarly privileged individuals. Individuals with Narcissistic Personality Disorder display a sense of entitlement for the best that life has to offer. People with Narcissistic Personality Disorder may take advantage of other others, and use them to achieve their own ostentatious goals. Despite all of this grandiose behavior, individuals with this condition tend to have very fragile self-esteems. For this reason, they have a need to be constantly admired and doted upon. It isn't fully understood what causes this set of personality traits, but it's suspected that extremes in parenting may contribute. Many people with Narcissistic Personality Disorder experienced a lack of affection and support during childhood. They often report neglect, abuse, or an unpredictable home life. On the flipside, some people with the condition were very pampered as children and were always expected to outperform their peers. No matter its cause, people with this personality disorder do NOT usually see themselves as having a problem, which makes treatment difficult. If a person DOES seek help, psychotherapy, or talk therapy, is the preferred method. Psychotherapy may help the affected person relate to others in a more positive and compassionate manner. For Narcissistic Personality Disorder, therapy focuses on learning to relate to others in a more positive, empathetic way. The prognosis, however, is dependent on the severity of the condition. Like Anna Nicole, people with this condition have a hard time developing healthy relationships with others. For this reason, it's important to make an appointment with a mental health professional if you think you or a loved one is affected by Narcissistic Personality Disorder.More »
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Do you know which reality star suffers from dissociative identity disorder? Put your psych ability to the test.
Last Modified: 2011-08-23 | Tags »
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We all lie sometimes when we intentionally want to deceive someone else. But pathological liars lie impulsively about things that have no external benefit to them. Watch this video for a look inside the mind of a pathological liar.
Transcript: All humans have lied at one time or another, so we all know it involves dishonesty with the intent to...
All humans have lied at one time or another, so we all know it involves dishonesty with the intent to deceive another person. A normal lie is usually premeditated, told for external social, financial, or career-based gain. But pathological lying, which is also known as mythomania and as pseudologia fantastica, is different. Unlike a normal lie, a pathological lie is often impulsive and unplanned. Even more importantly, this type of deception seems to be told with no external benefit in mind. In the medical world, pathological lying is a controversial topic. This is partially because the medical community has yet to reach a consensus on how exactly to define it. It is also still being debated whether mythomania is a diagnosable medical condition on its own, or simply a symptom of another mental illness. After all, it's easy to confuse pathological lying with other psychiatric conditions involving untruths. For example, narcissistic and histrionic personality disorders involve deceiving others, though in both of those conditions the liar seeks to gain personal accolades, admiration, and attention. The biggest factor keeping mythomania out of official medical literature is that doctors don't fully know if patients can control their lies or not. One study found that self-proclaimed pathological liars had 26-percent more fatty brain material, known as white matter, than a control group, suggesting a biological origin. On the other hand, some pathological liars will confess when repeatedly questioned, which suggests an element of control exists over their deceptions. Because mythomania has yet to be declared a real mental illness, very little research has gone into how to treat it. It's suspected that psychotherapy could be an option, but in order to be successful, the patient would have to desire treatment, and be willing to be truthful with the psychiatrist administering it. Until the American Academy of Psychiatry can agree on a definition, pathological lying will remain something of a mystery!More »
Last Modified: 2014-01-21 | Tags »
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What events may trigger hysterical blindness? What compels someone with a mental illness to seek treatment? Quiz yourself.
Last Modified: 2013-08-29 | Tags »
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What is conversion disorder? This little-known condition, previously thought to be a form of hysteria, comes from psychological stress triggered by a traumatic event. Watch this video to learn more about this perplexing condition.
Transcript: You may be unfamiliar with Conversion Disorder, a condition in which a person has blindness, paralysis,...
You may be unfamiliar with Conversion Disorder, a condition in which a person has blindness, paralysis, or neurological symptoms that cannot be explained, but physicians have been writing about this condition since fourth century, BC! Until the twentieth century, Conversion Disorder was known by the more colloquial term, hysteria. Greece's famous physician, Plato, believed that hysteria was exclusive to females and that it stemmed from a woman's uterus wandering throughout her body. Women experiencing Plato's hysteria developed a myriad of symptoms, ranging from spasms to extreme nervousness. But when the twentieth century rolled around, psychologist Sigmund Freud changed the thinking regarding hysteria. The condition got its NEW name, Conversion Disorder, because Freud believed it was a condition in which psychological stress is converted into real, physical symptoms. Today, Freud's Conversion Disorder is considered a real medical diagnosis, while hysteria is no longer recognized. For a person with modern-day Conversion Disorder, psychological stress is triggered by a traumatic event or a mental health disorder, like depression or anxiety. That MENTAL duress is then displayed suddenly and unexpectedly as a PHYSICAL problem. Commonly, Conversion Disorder manifests as paralysis in an arm or leg inability to speak, or difficulty swallowing and vision problems ranging from double vision to blindness. Other Conversion Disorder symptoms can include hallucinations, numbness, blindness, or seizures. It's important to understand that while these real symptoms are DEFINITELY present in sufferers, there is NO physical, medical explanation for why they occur. Some doctors falsely believe that conversion disorder and similar disorders are not real conditions, and may tell patients that the problem is "all in your head." However, these conditions ARE real! They cause distress and cannot be turned on and off at will. Research on the mind-body connection may eventually increase understanding of these disorders. That means that a physician must rule out ALL other causes of a person's symptoms before diagnosing Conversion Disorder. Generally, females are more likely to have this condition. Although, contrary to the old hysteria beliefs, males can experience it as well! People are more at risk for a conversion disorder if they also have a medical illness, dissociative disorder, or personality disorder. As well, a history of physical or sexual abuse or living in a culture of poverty may also increase the likelihood of developing the disorder. The good news is that MOST people with Conversion Disorder get better with a doctor's reassurance that there is nothing PHYSICALLY wrong with them. Psychotherapy and stress management training may help reduce symptoms. The affected body part or physical function will need physical or occupational therapy until the symptoms disappear. For example, paralyzed limbs must be exercised to prevent muscle wasting. Hypnosis may also be used to help identify the condition's genesis, because there is relief from Conversion Disorder, and because treatment can be relatively simple it's important to talk to a doctor if you or a loved one is suffering from symptoms of this condition.More »
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People can develop a dissociative identity disorder due to a number of factors. If left untreated, this disorder can have serious consequences. Learn about this here.
Transcript: Most of us know Tila Tequila as a Playboy model or the girlfriend of a football player. Or maybe we...
Most of us know Tila Tequila as a Playboy model or the girlfriend of a football player. Or maybe we know her from her most recent, infamous engagement to Casey Johnson, the heiress to the Johnson & Johnson fortune, who died in early 2010. Tila's not just a multi-layered character, she's actually not alone in that famous body! Tila Tequila suffers from Dissociative Identity Disorder - or Multiple Personality Disorder as it was once known - a mental illness in which a sufferer has at least two distinct identities. Experts attest that most patients have about 13 to 15 personalities, although there have been cases of people with up to 100 "alter-egos." About a year ago, Tila announced her condition on her MySpace page, and some of her erratic behavior since seems in line with her confession that she suffers from Dissociative Identity Disorder. For Tila Tequila, one of those other identities is "Jane," an outspoken woman who recently hijacked Tila's Twitter account. "I told you once and I'm not gonna tell you again, Tila is not here! this is Jane!" Jane tweeted. Aside from alter egos like these, people with Dissociative Identity Disorder, or DID, experience severe memory loss, or memory fluctuations. Other symptoms of the disorder can include: sleep disorders, alcohol or drug abuse, compulsions and rituals, and depression, and in more severe cases, suicidal tendencies. Because Dissociative Identity Disorder is so eccentric, it attracts a lot of media attention. For example, Steven Spielberg's latest brainchild, The United States of Tara, is a television show about a wife and mother boasting four personalities and counting. The show resulted in Showtime Networks' highest ratings in five years, and was almost instantly picked up for another season. Despite all this buzz, it is generally believed that less than one-percent of the United States population suffers from DID. Why these few people develop the disorder is not fully understood, but...experts do know that up to 99-percent of Dissociative Identity patients report severe physical and/or sexual abuse in young childhood. It is for this reason that DID sufferers often have traumatic flashbacks characteristic of another mental condition called Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD. There is no definitive test that can diagnose DID, so psychiatrists must conduct detailed mental health interviews to look for it.The process is tricky though, and it is estimated that individuals with DID may spend up to seven years in therapy before they are properly diagnosed. The primary treatment for Dissociative Identity Disorder is ongoing psychotherapy, with a goal of combining all the personalities into one. This is what famous athlete, Herschel Walker, talks about in his recent book Breaking Free. A silent sufferer of Dissociative Identity Disorder, Walker channeled his identities into various sports.Walker was so successful at this that he was both a recipient of college football's Heisman trophy and a participant in the 1992 United States Olympian bobsled division. Walker also out-sprinted other Olympian runners, studied taekwondo, and schooled in ballet: "... a lot of people who have been under trauma go into an altered personality to cope with different things in their lives," Walker explained. Still, some individuals with DID are not content to rely on talk therapy. Hypnosis and electroconvulsive therapy are both alternative methods of attempting to control multiple identities. When DID is not treated - or when it's treated poorly - the results can be severe. Such was the case with Rebecca Arwen Long, a devout knitter, keeper of to-do lists, and loving wife. But it wasn't that side of Long that was on trial in a Seattle courtroom last November. Instead, it was a side that starved her stepdaughter to the point where the 14-year-old weighed just 47 pounds at the time of her rescue. Although Long's lawyers cited poorly controlled Dissociative Identity Disorder as the culprit, Long - and her alter-ego - were sentenced to three and a half years. Clearly, we have a long way to go before we fully understand DID and the conditions that surround it. But there are treatments that can help! So if you believe that you, or someone you love is suffering from the disorder, please seek immediate medical attention.More »
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If you constantly seek attention or approval from others in a dramatic or forward way, you may be experiencing histrionic personality disorder. Watch this video to learn more.
Transcript: The word "histrionic" means dramatic or theatrical, and that's exactly what characterizes a person with...
The word "histrionic" means dramatic or theatrical, and that's exactly what characterizes a person with Histrionic Personality Disorder. Histrionic Personality Disorder is a condition that affects about two to three-percent of the United States population, according to the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, and generally begins in early adulthood. People with this disorder are usually able to function at a high level and can be successful socially and at work. As its name suggests, Histrionic Personality Disorder is characterized by dramatic or inappropriate behavior, which stems from an overwhelming desire to be noticed. In fact, people with this condition are often uncomfortable in situations in which they are NOT the center of attention. For people with Histrionic Personality Disorder, feelings of self-esteem arise from the approval and attention of others, and NOT from a real feeling of self-worth. As such, histrionic Personality Disorder is often characterized by inappropriately seductive or provocative behavior, and may cause a person to consistently rely on physical appearance to garner attention. A low tolerance for frustration and delayed gratification are also common markers of this personality disorder. People with Histrionic Personality Disorder are often extremely gullible and open to suggestion from others, and often are overly sensitive to criticism or disapproval, as they are constantly seeking reassurance or approval. Often believing that relationships are more intimate and close than they ACTUALLY are, this disorder is often characterized by multiple relationship failures, which can lead to depression. These failures and disappointments, in keeping with the way a person with this disorder processes emotional information, are often blamed on others. In extreme cases, a person with the condition may even threaten or attempt suicide as a ploy to get attention. While no one knows for SURE what causes this set of behaviors, it is known that it occurs more often in women than in men, although it may be more often diagnosed in women because attention-seeking and sexual forwardness are less socially acceptable for women. But it is difficult to say whether this is because the condition is INHERITED or because children tend to repeat behavior LEARNED from their parents. Whatever the case, a person with Histrionic Personality Disorder does not usually believe that he or she has a problem or needs treatment. People with this condition often ONLY seek treatment when they experience depression from failed romantic relationships. Medication may be helpful with symptoms such as depression. INI terms of treatment, there are no MEDICATIONS approved to treat the condition but sufferers have shown great improvement after spending time undergoing psychotherapy. Histrionic Personality Disorder can make it difficult to engage in healthy, meaningful relationships with others. So if you believe that the condition is affecting YOU or someone you care about, make an appointment to speak with a mental health professional.More »
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Antisocial personality disorder is more than just not being a people person. Find out more about antisocial personality disorder by watching this video.
Transcript: Everyone feels antisocial sometimes, but people with Antisocial Personality Disorder have an almost impossible...
Everyone feels antisocial sometimes, but people with Antisocial Personality Disorder have an almost impossible time respecting or connecting with other people. Antisocial personality disorder is a psychiatric condition in which a person manipulates, exploits, or violates the rights of others. Antisocial Personality Disorder is a mental illness affecting up to one-percent of women and three to five-percent of men, in the United States, according to Mayo Clinic data. This behavior is often criminal. One of the biggest signs of Antisocial Personality Disorder is a persuasive disregard for right and wrong, and for society's norms. As such, people with this disorder often engage in criminal activity, resulting in frequent run-ins with the law. A person with antisocial personality disorder often lies, steals and causes fights with others. Another facet of Antisocial Personality Disorder is a blatant disregard for the rights and feelings of other people, which often manifests not only as lies, but also as deceit, often coupled with intimidation of others. Violent and aggressive behavior is typical. Often, a person with this disorder does not show any guilt for their actions. It's not surprising that it's almost impossible for someone with Antisocial Personality Disorder to engage in real intimacy with another person. Despite this, people with Antisocial Personality Disorder ARE very good at displaying superficial charm, and at flattering and manipulating others. Symptoms tend to peak during the late teenage years and early 20's. They may improve on their own by a person's 40's. Complications can include imprisonment and drug abuse, and Antisocial Personality Disorder can also often come hand-in-hand with other impulse control problems, like chronic gambling. Additionally, people with this illness often have additional mood disorders related to depression and anxiety. Antisocial personality disorder is one of the most difficult personality disorders to treat. People with this condition rarely seek treatment on their own. They may only start therapy when required to by a court. The effectiveness of treatment for antisocial personality disorder is not known. And in order to make accurate diagnoses, psychiatrists use a set of specific identifying guidelines laid out by the American Psychiatric Association. Aside from possessing a blatant disregard for the rights and feelings of others, a person cannot be diagnosed with Antisocial Personality Disorder unless he or she is at least 18 years of age and has demonstrated symptoms of Conduct Disorder, like stealing or violence, before age 15. Even once diagnosed, it can be difficult to treat Antisocial Personality Disorder. This is largely because, by definition, people with the illness DO NOT CARE that they are causing pain and problems. If a person IS willing to receive treatment, it usually comes in the form of psychotherapy, or talk therapy. Occasionally, medications may be prescribed to treat certain SYMPTOMS of the condition, such as depression or mood instability.More »
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Paranoia is not just about being overly suspicious and distrustful of people, but can be a symptom of a serious psychological disorder. Watch this video to learn more about paranoid personality disorder.
Transcript: Paranoid personality disorder, or PPD, is a psychiatric condition in which a person is very suspicious...
Paranoid personality disorder, or PPD, is a psychiatric condition in which a person is very suspicious and distrustful of others and up to 4.4-percent of Americans are currently living with it. For a person with Paranoid Personality Disorder, almost everyone is a source of suspicion and mistrust, though sufferers are usually unable to acknowledge their own negative feelings towards other people. Although these feelings of mistrust and suspicion are nearly constant in a PPD sufferer's life, these misgivings tend to be unfounded. Still, people with PPD are always on their guard, believing that they are about to be deceived, demeaned or harmed. As such, individuals suffering from the disorder are often reluctant to confide in others, for fear that information will be used against them later. There is concern that other people have hidden motives, and coupled with the PPD sufferer's expectation that they will be exploited by others, there is a general inability for them to work together with others. They also tend to read hidden, malicious meanings in casual remarks or glances. Similarly, people with Paranoid Personality Disorder frequently perceive attacks on their characters or reputations that are not evident to others. It is also not uncommon for individuals with PPD to be hostile and argumentative and to have a hard time relaxing. Because of these symptoms, people with Paranoid Personality Disorder are often socially isolated, detached and have poor self-images. They are prone to holding grudges about both real and perceived insults and injuries. Similarly, these individuals are more likely to become suspicious and jealous of spouses or lovers. Often, PPD sufferers become entangled in legal battles in which they sue others for imagined wrongdoing. No one knows what causes these symptoms of Paranoid Personality Disorder. But, it has been noted that people with PPD are more likely to have family members with schizophrenia, suggesting a genetic link between the two. Unfortunately, PPD is difficult to treat, because people with the disorder do not see themselves as having problems. In addition, the mistrust with which PPD sufferers regard others makes it difficult for medical professionals to offer assistance. When treatment for Paranoid Personality Disorder is sought, psychotherapy is the preferred method. Psychotherapy for PPD focuses on improving social interactions and teaching a sufferer better coping mechanisms. Because therapy can indeed limit the impact of paranoia, it's important for affected individuals to seek help for Paranoid Personality Disorder.More »
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