Personality Disorders: An individual’s personality refers to the unique characteristics and traits that define who that person is. Most people develop their personality by adolescence or early adulthood, however, some tend to develop traits that are maladaptive which lead to dysfunctional lives. In these cases, one could have a personality disorder, and may require either clinical or counseling services in order to function efficiently. Some features or common symptoms displayed by those with a personality disorder include distorted thinking patterns, inappropriate feelings or emotional reactions to situations, impulse control issues, behavior problems and problems in their relationships with others.
The Paranoid Personality Disorder: This is characterized by a suspiciousness and distrust and people with this disorder assume that others are out to harm them, take advantage of them, or humiliate them in some way. Individuals with paranoid personality disorder put in a great effort into protecting themselves and keeping their distance from others who they may feel threatened by. They tend to hold grudges, and get easily jealous. It is evident that there are distortions in their thought patterns for even harmless situations. For these reasons, they do not confide in others and do not allow themselves to develop close relationships. It is important that counseling addresses their distorted thought patterns and helps them adapt to their environment in such a way that they feel more secure and comfortable as a result of which they may be able to form long lasting impactful relationships with others.
The Schizoid Personality Disorder: This is characterized by a pervasive pattern of social detachment and restricted range of emotional expression. Thus, they often do not form close relationships with others and lead isolated and lonely lives. They seek settings that allow them to work independently and without much interaction with other individuals and are unaffected by the opinions of their peers – be it positive or negative. They may not be able to accurately gauge and perceive emotional or social cues of others around them and hence do not respond to these cues- making them come across as disinterested and cold hearted. While this is a relatively rare disorder, counseling is imperative to ensure that they learn and recognize social cues and how to respond to them in a way that ensures no discomfort to either them or those that they are interacting with.
Schizotypal Personality Disorder: These individuals are characterized by a pervasive pattern of social and interpersonal limitations. They experience acute discomfort in social settings and have a reduced capacity for close relationships. For these reasons they tend to be socially isolated, reserved, and distant. Unlike the Schizoid Personality Disorder, they also experience perceptual and cognitive distortions and/or eccentric behavior. These perceptual abnormalities may include noticing flashes of light no one else can see, or seeing objects or shadows in the corner of their eyes and then realizing that nothing is there. People with Schizotypal Personality Disorder have odd beliefs, for instance, they may believe they can read other people’s thoughts, or that that their own thoughts have been stolen from their heads. These odd or superstitious beliefs and fantasies are inconsistent with cultural norms. Schizotypal Personality Disorder tends to be found more frequently in families where someone has been diagnosed with Schizophrenia and these individuals would perhaps benefit most with clinical help.
The Antisocial Personality Disorder: This is characterized by a characteristic nature of disregard or antipathy towards others, and is usually perceived as aggression or hostility. Persons with antisocial personality disorders can also be extremely charming and manipulative and see no wrong in deceiving others for their own gains. They seem to lack a moral code or a conscience. These tendencies may be noticed in childhood and may also have been diagnosed as Conduct Disorder. They show a fascination or pleasure towards causing harm to other individuals and animals. In addition to reckless disregard for others, they often place themselves in dangerous or risky situations. They frequently act on impulsive urges without considering the consequences. This difficulty with impulse control results in loss of employment, accidents, legal difficulties, and incarceration. Persons with Antisocial Personality Disorder typically do not experience genuine remorse for the harm they cause others. However, they can become quite adept at feigning remorse when it is in their best interest to do so (such as when standing before a judge). They take little to no responsibility for their actions, and a trained professional would be best equipped to deal with an individual with Antisocial Personality Disorder in order to decrease the manifestation of their tendencies or provide a healthy and productive outlet for their efforts and potentialities.
Histrionic Personality Disorder: These individuals are characterized by a pattern of excessive emotionality and attention seeking. They enjoy being the center of everyone’s attention and get uncomfortable when they are not. They tend to have exaggerated responses to the smallest of things. People with this disorder are often quite flirtatious or seductive, and like to dress in a manner that draws attention to them. They can be flamboyant and theatrical, exhibiting an exaggerated degree of emotional expression. At the same time, they do not express themselves fully in terms of their true emotions and hence may seem shallow or insincere. Their exaggerated responses to life situations may tend to be embarrassing for their family and friends and hence they may be unable to form true friendships or relationships, which further heighten their tendencies among their acquaintances. They do not deal well with loneliness and may get easily depressed.
Narcissistic Personality Disorder: These individuals are most commonly described as those who love themselves to the point that they believe themselves to be more worthy than others around them. This leads them to believe they deserve special treatment, and to assume they have special powers, are uniquely talented, or that they are especially brilliant or attractive. As a result, they may disrespect and offend those around them. These individuals are often highly ambitious and fantasize having tremendous money and power, and believe themselves as being able to achieve this success with little to no hard work since they believe that they have stunning and superior beauty and intelligence – which is usually not the case. They get highly discouraged on being faced with failure and cannot handle the threats to their idea of their perfect selves. They often experience high stress since they tend to place high importance to themselves and the tasks they do, and counseling is advised to help these people form a more realistic idea of themselves so as to help them lead a more comfortable and peaceful life.
Borderline Personality Disorder: People with Borderline Personality Disorder tend to experience intense and unstable emotions and moods that can shift fairly quickly. They generally have a hard time calming down once they have become upset. As a result, they frequently have angry outbursts and engage in impulsive behaviors such as substance abuse, risky sexual liaisons, self-injury, overspending, or binge eating. These behaviors often function to sooth them in the short-term, but harm them in the longer term. People with Borderline Personality Disorder tend to see the world in polarized, over-simplified, all-or-nothing terms. They apply their harsh either/or judgments to others and to themselves and their perceptions of themselves and others may quickly vacillate back and forth between “all good” and “all bad.” This tendency leads to an unstable sense of self, so that persons with this disorder tend to have a hard time being consistent. They can frequently change careers, relationships, life goals, or residences. Quite often these radical changes occur without any warning or advance preparation.
The Avoidant Personality Disorder: This disorder is characterized by a pattern of social inhibition, feeling inadequate or inferior, and a hypersensitivity to negative evaluation. People with this disorder are intensely afraid that others will ridicule them, reject them, or criticize them. This leads them to avoid social situations and to avoid interactions with others. This further limits their ability to develop social skills. People with Avoidant Personality Disorders often have a very limited social world with a small circle of confidants. Their social life is otherwise rather limited. Their way of thinking about and interpreting the world revolves around the thought that they are not good enough, and that others don’t like them. The intensity of this fearful anxiety, and the discomfort it creates, compels them to avoid interpersonal situations. They might avoid parties or social events, and may have difficulty giving presentations at work or speaking up in meetings. Others might perceive them as distant or shy. They likely come across as stiff and restricted. All this will likely interfere with their ability to make friends, or to move ahead professionally. Thus confronting their fears and learning how to adapt to their surroundings would be an important aspect of counseling for these individuals.
Dependent Personality Disorder: The basic need of individuals with a dependent personality disorder is the strong need to be taken care of by other people. This need to be taken care of, and the associated fear of losing the support of others, often leads people with Dependent Personality Disorder to behave in a “clingy” manner; to submit to the desires of other people. In order to avoid conflict, they may have great difficulty standing up for themselves. The intense fear of losing a relationship makes them vulnerable to manipulation and abuse. They find it difficult to express disagreement or make independent decisions, and are challenged to begin a task when nobody is available to assist them. Being alone is extremely hard for them. When someone with Dependent Personality Disorder finds that a relationship they depend on has ended, they will immediately seek another source of support.
Persons with Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCD): These individuals are preoccupied with rules, regulations, and order. This need for perfectionism and control is at the expense of flexibility, openness, and efficiency. They are great makers of lists and schedules, and are often devoted to work to such an extent that they often neglect social relationships. They have perfectionist tendencies, and are so driven in their work to “get it right” that they become unable to complete projects or specific tasks because they get lost in the details, and do not appreciate the bigger picture. Persons with Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder tend to be rigid and inflexible in their approach to things. It simply isn’t an option for them to do a “sub-standard” job just to get something done. Often, they are unable to delegate tasks for fear that another person will not “get it right.” People with this disorder are often experienced as rigid, controlling, and stubborn.
An important thing to note is that only a trained professional is qualified enough to make a diagnosis regarding a personality disorder – since all individuals would possess some of these traits, however not the extent that it interferes with their normal functioning. Hence, it is important to seek a professional in the case of a personality related issue so that he/she may accurately diagnose a problem if at all, and take the required steps to improve the condition of their client and provide them with the skills to interact effectively with others and form long-lasting and satisfying relationships.
Addiction: In today’s day and age, the availability and acceptance of alcohol and drugs is high and many individuals, particularly teenagers try out these substances out of curiosity for recreational purposes. However, most tend to grow out of it as the fascination wears out, whereas some get dependent on these substances and are unable to function without them, well into adulthood. Addiction to alcohol or drugs can be observed when an individual is unable to perform their daily jobs without being intoxicated and who begins to shirk all other responsibilities and relationships due to their preoccupation with the substance they are addicted to. As their consumption of drugs rises, users may become physically dependent on their drug to the extent that if they do not take it on a particular day, they get sick, and experience withdrawal symptoms. It gets more dangerous over time since as dependence increases, tolerance to the drugs increases as well – i.e. it takes more and more of the drug to get the same effect of being intoxicated. However, it is important to remember that addictions can be overcome, and many rehabilitation plans and options are available for those who want to overcome their addiction and with additional support of their friends and families, it is possible to reconstruct one’s life.
Depression: Everyone experiences sadness in their daily lives, and feels “low” from time to time. We commonly use the expression of being depressed to describe this temporary feeling; however, clinical depression is much more severe, and complex. People who are clinically depressed experience a crushing sense of despair and hopelessness, and become anhedonic – i.e. are unable to experience pleasure. Major Depression is a common yet serious medical condition that affects both the mind and body. It is a complex illness, creating physical, psychological, and social symptoms. Depressive symptoms can vary tremendously from one individual to the next. While one depressed person may experience feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and helplessness, another may feel angry, irritated, and discouraged. Depressive symptoms may also seem like a change in someone’s personality. Some common symptoms of depression are being unable to sleep or disturbed sleep cycles; lack of energy and feeling tired all the time; changes in appetite and hence dramatic weight changes; inability to concentrate; restlessness and feelings of guilt and low self-esteem. Depression can be very debilitating. Feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness tend to overpower and the individual often feels like giving up. However, be rest assured that there is definite treatment available even for the most severe forms of depression. One must never lose HOPE in spite of previous negative experiences.
Relationship and Sexual Disorders: One of the most challenging tasks of adulthood is to engage in healthy relationships. Issues in a relationship tend to be extremely stressful, irrespective of whether the problem is with a colleague or employer, a family member or friend or a romantic partner. Many face trouble in their marriage, however when it comes to a point that it affects your mental well-being and seems unbearable, marital therapy could be a relieving option for couples. During sessions of marital therapy, therapists help couples to work through their difficulties which may include estrangement and loss of loving feelings, communication problems, affairs, mismatched expectations, and competitive struggles particularly in the case of handling finances. Couples that have the best chance for recovery are those who are both motivated to keep their marriage alive and who are willing to work with their partners to resolve their issues. Another important issue that married couples must deal with is if either or both individuals have any sexual disorders or dissatisfaction that can lead to problems in the relationship. While it may be necessary to seek medical help in the case of physiological sexual disorders, marital therapy may help both partners accept each other and work towards achieving a mutually satisfying relationship. It is not necessary that only married couples have to deal with issues related to sex and sexuality. Some individuals may find that they have different sexual orientations or gender identities which can be highly stressful to deal with alone, and seeking counseling can provide great support and relief to these individuals as well.
Lifestyle Issues: With the busy life that everyone leads today, stress can tend to be a major problem for everyone, and not all are able to cope with the pressures that life has thrown at them. Stress is a reaction to a changing, demanding environment which can affect not only our mind and moods but also our body and general health. The reason that different people tend to react to similar situations differently, is that some people tend to be more resilient than others and can cope with their stressors, whereas others may be more vulnerable and may not be able to effectively handle stressful situations. People may also face problems in balancing their work and home lives, leading to conflicts with others around them and thus by seeking counseling, one can learn effective stress management, anger management and relaxation tactics and apply these techniques in their daily lives to increase their own resilience. Other issues may include sleep disturbances and dysfunctional sleep habits – such as insomnia (inability to sleep) or hypersomnia (sleeping too much), which may be caused due to underlying psychological troubles; and also eating disorders such as anorexia or obesity which are accompanied with psychological issues like poor self-esteem or body image issues. Thus, visiting a counselor can boost one’s general well-being and also address any specific issues that the individual may have.