November 01, 2019

Personality disorders

When off-key is not OK

You've often wondered what's going on with your sister-in-law. As long as you've known her, she's often let your phone and text messages go unanswered. Conversations with her end unhappily, with her accusing you of things that sound either exaggerated or entirely made-up. Family get-togethers are usually tense and uncomfortable.

People's personalities vary widely and everyone displays a broad range of emotion. Often, unpleasant or odd behavior — even if it seems unusual — can fall within the broad definition of normal. Other times, though, it can signal a personality disorder, a type of mental disorder in which there is a rigid and unhealthy pattern of thinking, functioning and behaving.

Personality disorders may interfere with a person's ability to find work, to establish and maintain relationships, or to enjoy life. Often, family and friends of someone with a personality disorder feel anger and confusion — and feel powerless to change things. But good treatment options exist, and it's important to know there are options for an often difficult-to-understand problem.

Changes with age, life events

Erratic behavior, mood swings and acting out are often a normal part of life in preschoolers and teens, but these behaviors tend to subside in adulthood. However, people with personality disorders tend to have erratic behaviors into adulthood. It isn't always easy to spot, though. People with personality disorders often aren't aware of their disorders, and others may not realize that behavior they see as concerning is a medical condition that requires care.

Over time, the changes and challenges that come with...