Straight, No Chaser: Understanding Personality Disorders


Mental health really is taken for granted. Your ability to cope and exist within your environment is a fundamental determinant of your quality of life. Psychoses are severe, unhealthy and debilitating mental disorders that are likely to take you beyond normal function. Personality disorders are mental disorders that create limitations in your ability to interact with your world and all within it. These patterns of behaving, thinking and functioning lead to difficulties perceiving and responding appropriately.
This series of Straight, No Chaser posts will review the three categories of personality disorders (known as clusters) and treatment options. These categories of disorders were developed based on similar traits and symptoms. They are not mutually exclusive, and an individual can suffer from more than one disorder at a time.
Today, we want you to come to an understanding of what puts you at risk and when any type of personality or mental disorder requires medical intervention. It is a medical fact that you are not likely to maintain a steady state of functioning with these disorders, as they tend to progress and become worse without intervention. We hope these posts provide insight into human behavior and allow you to obtain any help you or a loved one may need.

 nature vs nuture

It’s fair to say that society shapes behavioral norms and judges behavior based on one’s adherence to those norms. Thus your environment has a large role in the determination of normalcy vs. abnormal behavior. That said, there are objective standards for behavioral deviancy. You should be especially sensitive of deviancy during childhood, as this is when personality develops. That said, your personality is a result of the interaction between genetic considerations passed by parents (i.e. your temperament) and how your environment embraces, molds and enhances your genetic inclinations. What that means in simple terms is you may be prone to certain behaviors (even abnormal personality disorders) from birth, but it likely requires circumstances and/or events in your life to stimulate their development and expression.


Beyond the interaction of genetic and environment, a precise cause of personality disorders isn’t known. However, we can identify certain factors that increase the risk of developing or triggering personality disorders.

  • Family history of mental illness, including personality disorders
  • Low level of education and lower social and economic status
  • Verbal, physical or sexual abuse during childhood
  • Neglect or an unstable or chaotic family life during childhood
  • Being diagnosed with childhood conduct disorder
  • Variations in brain chemistry and structure

When should you see a physician for a possible personality disorder? The short answer is always. If you have any signs or symptoms of a personality disorder, see your doctor, mental health provider or other health care professional. It’s better to have been evaluated and found normal than to have needed an evaluation and not have obtained it.
If you or a loved one is having personality disorder-type issues, here are considerations you’ll want to have addressed.

  • What can I do to help myself?
  • What type of personality disorder might I have?
  • How do you treat my type of personality disorder?
  • Will talk therapy (psychotherapy) help?
  • Are there medications that might help?
  • How long will I need to take medication?
  • What are the major side effects of the medication you’re recommending?
  • How long will treatment take?
  • How does my support system become empowered to best help me?
  • What other support is available?

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