Personality Disorders are Personal-Reality Disorders 

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According to the Mayo Clinic, a personality disorder is “a type of mental disorder in which you have a rigid and unhealthy pattern of thinking, functioning and behaving.

Personality disorders have become more and more widely talked about today, but are incredibly misunderstood. At the core of every personality disorder is a personal-reality disorder. What this means is that our personality is shaped by our personal reality – how we see the world.

If we continue stigmatizing personality disorders for how impossible to cure they are, we will never open the door for awareness, new realities, changed behaviors, and better outcomes. At the same time, we don’t want to ignore the research and science in the field. So, what are we left with here? 

Well to start, I want to talk about how we currently tend to approach helping those with personality disorders. Many times, we see behaviors that are unwanted, hurtful, inconvenient, and downright abusive, and think to ourselves “I need to get this person to stop doing that.”

Even in therapeutic environments, therapists tend to use adult psychology on individuals who are oftentimes arrested in psychological and emotional development – this is ineffective because they are psychologically still children and can benefit more from techniques borrowed from child psychology that can help them develop into an adult, psychologically and emotionally. 


Emotional Intelligence Principle: 

Always respond to childish behavior using techniques borrowed from child psychology. 

This education is not meant to enable partners and friends to try and fix others, but rather, is helpful for those who are professionals in the field, who want to simply better understand these conditions, and for patients who face these disorders, have already hit rock bottom, and want to help themselves.

Some personality disorders are easier to help than others because of the nature of their consequences. For example, people with Borderline Personality Disorder are more likely to face life consequences that encourage a state of rock bottom, whereas people with Narcissistic Personality Disorder may face consequences later in life or sometimes never, depending on where their behaviors fall along the spectrum. This is common amongst other disorders as well. 

When I was a teenerager, I developed anorexia [a disorder categorized by starvation]. You can imagine that anorexic patients cannot continue for so long before consequences arise – for me, I lost physical strength, my health was suffering drastically, and it wasn’t so much longer that I had before I would have died if I continued in my disordered behaviors.

If we look at the other end of the spectrum, we will find patients diagnosed with binge-eating disorders [disorders categorized by short periods of over-eating]. These patients still have a disorder revolving around food, but their consequences do not come as quickly, or as severely, as they would for a patient with anorexia. 

There is a similar relationship between disorder and consequence in the world of personality disorders, but this does not mean that both cannot work towards treatment

At the core of all personality disorders there is one thing in common – a disordered reality created by childhood experiences that we learn to defend against at a young age, causing rigid, problematic, and sometimes hurtful behaviors. These behaviors then make up our personality, rather than simply becoming tools in our toolbox.

It is vital to see and understand how our personal reality can create our personality. Children are unable to cognitively understand and cope with painful realities without help, and therefore, subconsciously replay experiences to hopefully someday resolve childhood drawbacks.

For personality disorders to properly be treated, we must understand what lens the patient is using – questions such as “what do you see?” or “how do you see the world?” become vital questions in treatment. 

There is no use in trying to work on improving symptoms alone, such as the behaviors that are disliked in patients with these struggles. Instead, we should focus on the root issue, which is how they view the world and why. Where was this reality built? What did it make them feel? How did it make them behave? What needs aren’t inherently being met? What fears did it create? What patterns are constantly replaying in their current life?

If we learn how to connect before we try to correct, we will be much more effective. And finally, if we can reach a point in helping the patient correct their lens of reality, both by cognitively addressing it and emotionally addressing it, the emotional and behavioral response to the new matured reality will automatically improve.

This time, not in a forced way to, let’s say, keep a marriage alive, but instead, because they truly see the world differently and no longer need the defense mechanisms to respond to the world the way they did in the past. This is what true healing looks like, even if it takes the brain and mind a little while to develop over time – it is the only change that I have seen last and the only time I’ve seen patients hold themselves accountable for their own growth and healing. 

Emotional Intelligence Principle: 
Connect with people before you correct them.


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