Managing Teenage Personality Disorder

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Managing Teenage Personality Disorder

Adolescence is one of the most challenging stages of human development. During this period, your teen may experience a sudden outburst of emotions, and they may sometimes have issues controlling them.

Paying attention to your child’s social and emotional development is as important as looking after their physical development. Suppressed emotions may sometimes lead to traumatic or rebellious tendencies, and may even lead to personality disorders.

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Ask yourself, does your teen feel overwhelmed by their emotions? Do they often act recklessly? Do they constantly worry about social interactions with peers and family members? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then they might be suffering from a personality disorder.

What Makes a Personality Disorder?

Mental disorders are conditions that affect a person’s thoughts, emotions, and mood. They may be occasional (short-term) or chronic (long-term). One type of mental disorder is a personality disorder, generally described as unhealthy and inflexible behaviors. They often disrupt normal daily situations. People with personality disorders usually have trouble functioning and dealing with work or social interactions.

The American Psychiatric Association (APA) defines a personality disorder as a way of “thinking, feeling and behaving that deviates from the expectations of the culture.” These behaviors usually cause problems and distress and may persist over time.

Personality disorders may be caused by various factors, some of which can be genetic, past experiences, or environmental factors, but they do not have to occur simultaneously.

  • Genetics: According to a research study, personality disorders are found to be “moderately to strongly heritable.” The rate of heritability ranges from 30% to 80%. Moreover, the APA has highlighted the genetic factors that cause personality disorders. One example is the “malfunctioning gene,” which is found to cause the obsessive-compulsive disorder.
  • Past experiences: Distressing experiences during the early stages of childhood up to adolescence, such as sexual harassment, physically or verbally abusive parent-child relationships, and vehicular accidents, may have implications on the brain, thus resulting in a personality disorder.
  • Environment: Traumatic environmental circumstances may also lead to the development of personality disorders. War and natural disasters may affect a person’s perception of their environment.
  • Substance use: Illicit drugs and alcohol affect a person’s way of thinking and perceiving things. Prolonged use or dependency on these substances may have severe consequences, such as developing personality disorders.

Common Types of Personality Disorders

Personality disorders have a wide range of types, and a person cannot easily distinguish one from the other without a medical or psychiatric diagnosis. However, to spot the probable signs or symptoms of the different types, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) categorized the disorders into Cluster A, Cluster B, and Cluster C. These clusters are based on similar qualities of each personality disorder.

Cluster A: The Odd, Eccentric Cluster

Common features of Cluster A personality disorders are social awkwardness and withdrawal. Those with Cluster A disorders are usually distinguished by their distorted way of thinking.

  • Paranoid Personality Disorder: Characterized by unjustified distrust towards others. People with this disorder tend to isolate themselves, thinking that everyone is out to harm, destroy, or humiliate them. They may also hold grudges and exhibit extreme jealousy.
  • Schizoid Personality Disorder: Characterized by detachment from social interactions and relationships. People with schizoid personality disorder may have a limited range of emotions and emotional expression, making them socially isolated. They are usually called “loners” since they prefer doing activities with little to no interactions.
  • Schizotypal Personality Disorder: Characterized by extreme discomfort in social settings. Due to genetic similarities, it may sometimes be associated with an existing psychological illness called schizophrenia. People with a schizotypal personality disorder may exhibit eccentric behaviors and beliefs, like thinking they can read or influence other people’s minds.

Cluster B: The Dramatic, Emotional, Erratic Cluster

Cluster B personality disorders all have issues with controlling or regulating impulses and emotions.

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  • Antisocial Personality Disorder: Characterized by continuously disregarding the rights and emotions of other people. People with an antisocial personality disorder often use deceit and manipulation. They might also exhibit aggressive behaviors, such as tormenting animals and bullying. Moreover, they usually violate the law, such as engaging in theft, kidnapping, and arson, among others.
  • Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD): Characterized by intense and unstable emotions and reactions towards specific situations. People with BPD often experience anger outbursts. They also tend to judge other people or themselves harshly, and they frequently shift careers, relationships, and even long-term life goals.
  • Histrionic Personality Disorder (HPD): Characterized by excessive emotional behaviors. Someone with HPD is often called “dramatic” or a “drama queen.” They feel uncomfortable when they are not the center of attention in a social setting. As such, they wear flashy clothing and act flirty or theatrical to be more noticeable. They may also appear insincere due to their vague and shallow expressions.
  • Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD): Narcissists are described as self-entitled and self-conscious people. People with NPD have high regard for their worth, thinking that they deserve special treatment on all occasions. They often fantasize about their power, success, beauty, and intelligence, appearing boastful to other people. In addition, they have limited interactions with people who do not admire their superficial behavior. Narcissistic behavior in teens can manifest itself in different ways. At this time, no drug treatments have been established for the treatment of NPD, however, Therapy-based teen narcissistic personality disorder treatment can be beneficial.

Cluster C: The Anxious, Fearful Cluster

Personality disorders in Cluster C share high levels of anxiety, fear, or inadequacy.

  • Teen Avoidant Personality Disorder: Characterized by intense sensitivity to criticisms and negative evaluations. People with an avoidant personality disorder often think that others will reject them, fearing the idea of being “not good enough.” As such, they tend to avoid social interactions and situations as much as possible. They have a small circle of peers or confidants, and they usually exhibit an inability to trust others.
  • Dependent Personality Disorder (DPD): Characterized by the strong need to be taken care of by other people, appearing to be “clingy” in most situations. People with DPD struggle with standing up for themselves and making decisions independently. They fear being left alone, so the end of a relationship pushes them to seek a new one right away.
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD): People with OCPD are preoccupied with rules that must be obeyed at all times. They are obsessed with maintaining orderliness and schedules, making it difficult to be flexible when a plan suddenly changes. They also struggle with perfection, meaning that they cannot accomplish simple activities because they are more focused on getting everything perfectly right.

Borderline Personality Disorder: Causes and Symptoms

BPD is one of the most widely studied types of personality disorders. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) defines BPD as a mental illness characterized by “intense episodes of anger, depression, and anxiety that can last from a few hours to days.”

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Several risk factors may cause the occurrence of BPD, like genetics, structural differences in the brain, or traumatic experiences caused by environmental, social, and cultural factors.

People with BPD experience mood swings that may sometimes be disruptive in social settings. Other symptoms of BPD may include:

  • Abandonment and commitment issues.
  • Unstable familial, platonic, and romantic relationships.
  • Distorted sense of self-image.
  • Recurring suicidal thoughts and self-harming tendencies, such as cutting.
  • Dangerous and impulsive behaviors, such as substance abuse, reckless driving, and unsafe sex relations.
  • Problems with controlling intense emotions, such as anger.
  • Unjustified distrust towards others.

Risks of Having BPD

According to 2020 studies, at least 1.6% of the population in the United States have BPD. The ratio may seem small, but it actually equates to around 5 million people in the U.S. alone. 

Around 3% of teenagers in the U.S. are affected by this type of personality disorder. Moreover, women are at higher risk of experiencing BPD since about 75% of teenagers with BPD are females.

BPD may also lead to suicide attempts. A study showed that at least 70% of people with BPD had attempted suicide at least once in their lifetimes. In addition, around 8% to 10% of the BPD population take their lives.

Early Signs of Teenage BPD

You have to understand that there is a fine line between teen development and personality disorders. Some behaviors may be misunderstood as BPD since teens usually have intense feelings and opinions. However, you still have to pay attention to your teen’s actions, for they might exhibit the early symptoms of developing BPD, like:

  • Extreme fear of abandonment.
  • Unclear self-image.
  • Unhealthy emotional reactions.
  • Self-harm tendencies and suicidal behavior.
  • Explosive temper and violence.
  • Impulsive, reckless actions.
  • Unstable relationships.
  • Limited social interactions with peers.
  • Substance use or addiction.

If you notice recurring symptoms in your teen’s behavior, it is highly recommended to consult a medical professional, preferably a psychiatrist, for a diagnosis. Symptoms of personality disorders that develop during adolescence may persist up to adulthood, resulting in long-term harmful consequences.

Can BPD be Treated?

Most personality disorders are caused by traumatic experiences, such as physical or verbal abuse. However, studies have shown that they may also emerge from medication overuse or abuse.

Psychotherapies have proven effective in minimizing the risks of BPD and other personality disorders. An example of this is dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). DBT is a method of therapy that aims to treat suicidal or self-destructive tendencies that may occur with BPD. It is done by undergoing individual therapy, group skills training, and group consultations. Moreover, a high-functioning BPD test can help ease its symptoms.

Taking antidepressants, mood stabilizers, and antipsychotic and anti-anxiety medications can also help minimize BPD risks. However, these medications must be prescribed by a medical professional before taking them.

You are Not Alone

Having a personality disorder can be very challenging for both the patient and the parents. However, remember that although mental illnesses are complex, medical professionals are continuously finding ways to treat personality disorders. If your teen experiences recurring and multiple personality disorder symptoms, do not hesitate to reach out to us. We’re here to help you provide mental wellness for your teen, so they can enjoy their life to the fullest with the help of our teen drug rehab.

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