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Personality Disorder Treatment for Teens

Can You Change a Personality?

A personality is defined as a sum of characteristics, behaviors, thoughts, feelings, and patterns differentiating one person from the next. Personalities are shaped by internal and external factors alike – things we cannot control, from our relatives, our predispositions, our genetics, and the events and circumstances into which we are born, to things we can affect to a degree, such as lifestyle, peers, and surroundings.

Many of the things that are ingrained in us as kids and solidified throughout adolescence come to define us as adults. Which is why addressing personality faults – and especially personality disorders – as early as possible is crucial.

To be diagnosed with a personality disorder, a person’s thoughts, behaviors, and way of thinking must be so severely divorced from the norm that it begins to affect them and those around them in a strictly negative way. It’s not enough to be strange or eccentric. Personality disorders require disordered behavior, and unconventional, if not outright irrational lines of thought.

But just like how people can learn to adapt, develop new habits, take on new ideas, and even evolve past their own mistakes, people with personality disorders can often adopt a healthier mindset through continuous and intensive long-term treatment.

Understanding Personality Disorders

Personality disorders develop as a result of both environmental factors – such as upbringing and childhood experience – and genetic predisposition. Individuals with a family history of certain mental health conditions, including other personality disorders, are more likely to develop a personality disorder over time.

Most people who develop personality disorders will begin to exhibit symptoms in adolescence. In some cases, the symptoms can start to develop in childhood. Because most personality disorders only begin to develop during adolescence, however, diagnosing a teen with a personality disorder can be very difficult.

The main exception to this rule is an antisocial personality disorder, the symptoms of which usually begin to develop at age 11. Teens with antisocial behavior personality tend to be male. Meanwhile, borderline personality disorder, histrionic personality disorder, and dependent personality disorder are more likely to affect girls.

Personality disorders are not as rare as some people might think – current statistics show that about 9 percent of the US population may be diagnosed with one of ten major personality disorders. The most common personality disorders are antisocial personality disorder and borderline personality disorder.

While there are up to ten identifiable personality disorders, they are separated into three major categories. Identifying a personality disorder in a loved one can be difficult. A thorough psychological assessment is required to accurately determine whether a teen is struggling with a personality disorder, or a different set of conditions.

Types of Personality Disorders

The current diagnostic standard for personality disorders lists ten separate conditions. These are split into three major clusters: Cluster A (unusual or eccentric personality disorders), Cluster B (dramatic or unstable personality disorders), and Cluster C (anxiety personality disorders).

  • Cluster A:
    • Paranoid personality disorder – characterized by mistrust and suspicion of others, teens with paranoid personality disorder strongly believe that others around them aim to demean and humiliate them.
    • Schizoid personality disorder – characterized by “robot-like” behavior, teens with schizoid personality disorder are sometimes accused of being cold or emotionless andare limited in their emotional output. They seem aloof or constantly detached from their surroundings, almost dissociative.
    • Schizotypal personality disorder – characterized by unconventional or strange beliefs, as well as unusual thought patterns, strong co-occurring social anxiety, and a consistent difficulty forming bonds with others outside of their immediate family. Teens with schizotypal personality act in ways that earn them an eccentric or weird reputation.
  • Cluster B:
    • Antisocial personality disorder – characterized by a lack of respect for others, to nearly any capacity. Teens with an antisocial personality disorder are far more likely to break societal norms and laws alike and may be more prone to cause physical or emotional harm. They will also refuse to take responsibility for their actions and may easily lie.
    • Borderline personality disorder – characterized by a lack of emotional stability, severe mood swings, impulsivity, and wishy-washy behavior that greatly affects relationships and gives the image of being severely unreliable. This often results in very low self-esteem, and self-hatred.
    • Histrionic personality disorder – characterized by a severely distorted self-image, and a feeling of self-worth that is entirely and solely defined by others. This results in a highly unstable sense of self and a lack of emotional control, similarly to borderline personality disorder, but with an additional focus on displays of dramaticism to attract attention and be noticed and reacted to.
    • Narcissistic personality disorder – characterized by total self-obsession, and a strong sense of grandeur. Narcissists often either genuinely believe that they are the most important person in the room or are deeply scared of not being at the center of everyone’s attention. They have a need to be praised at every turn, and struggle with their self-esteem without the admiration of others. They also struggle to show empathy.
  • Cluster C:
    • Avoidant personality disorder – characterized by social anxiety and a sense of personal inadequacy that permeates every thought and interaction. Teens with an avoidant personality disorder are deeply afraid of rejection but might not be self-aware like a teen with social anxiety.
    • Dependent personality disorder – characterized by lack of any emotional independence, meaning an inability to make key decisions alone, and a total dependence on a dominant personality outside of their own. Teens with dependent personality disorder find someone to cling to and must please them. They have an intense fear of separation.
    • Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder–characterized by intense symptoms of OCD, but without the self-awareness that they might be struggling with OCD. A person with obsessive-compulsive personality disorder has ingrained their symptoms of OCD to the point that their perfectionism often interferes with every given task, and makes relationships difficult.

Personality Disorder Treatments at the Arrow House

Treating a personality disorder is a very involved and long-term process. Parents and loved ones need to beware – this is not a cure.

People who develop a personality disorder are usually predisposed towards that personality – treatment, insofar as it helps, can give that person the tools to address and learn to deal with aberrant and intrusive thoughts, impulses, and negative behavior. Furthermore, treatments center around helping teens alleviate the anxieties and symptoms that affect them in their everyday life, including irrational fears and worries.

They can learn to do and say the right things, and research shows that most personality disorders weaken over time – meaning, as they age, the tools they learned to use as teens will become second nature. At the Arrow House, we believe that a strong foundation is important. Our treatment plans help teens and families develop lifelong habits, and continue treatment in the long-term.