Although some diagnoses are familiar to many, there are many other types of personality disorders that are not as well known (or common) as obsessive-compulsive disorder or antisocial personality disorder. Regardless of society’s familiarity with these lesser-known diagnoses, many people who live with their symptoms struggle each day to accomplish day-to-day tasks and “function” as part of their academic or social communities. Studies estimate that up to ten percent of the United States population meet the diagnostic criteria for at least one personality disorder. Personality disorders are diagnosed in as many as sixty percent of patients and are among the most common mental health diagnoses.
Recent research suggests between sixty-five and ninety percent of those who seek help to overcome a substance use disorder have at least one co-occurring personality disorder.
What are Personality Disorders?
These disorders are a combination of mental health conditions that share several characteristics. The most common signs of a personality disorder include inflexible, unhealthy, and often destructive patterns of thought and behavior. Teens who struggle with a personality disorder will have difficulties forming and maintaining healthy relationships or managing everyday problems in ways considered “acceptable” by others. Someone with a personality disorder believes their thoughts and actions are normal despite being contrary to what is socially healthy or acceptable. The actions and feelings of a teen with a personality disorder often make them blame their difficulties on others. This frequently leads to social, personal, academic, and employment problems.
Personality Disorder Types
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) groups these disorders into three clusters based on symptoms and characteristics of the illness. It is possible to experience symptoms from one or more clusters.
Custer A: Suspicious
Cluster A includes three diagnoses; paranoid, schizoid, and schizotypal personality disorder. Each condition in cluster A is characterized by symptoms that pertain to how the individual thinks about or “views” others.
Cluster B: Emotional and Impulsive
Cluster B disorders involve symptoms related to how your teen treats or acts towards others and their view on how they compare to their peers. This cluster includes four disorders, borderliner, narcissistic, antisocial, and histrionic personality disorder.
Cluster C: Anxious
Cluster C disorders are disorders concerned with how someone feels in their relationships with others or their environment. Cluster C includes avoidant, dependent, and obsessive-compulsive personality disorder.
Personality Disorder Diagnoses and Statistics
There are several of these listed disorders in the DSM. However, some are statistically more common than others.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
Obsessive-compulsive disorder is the most widely reported these disorder in adults and teens. Statistics suggest approximately 2.5% of the population has obsessive-compulsive disorder, although many more likely live with symptoms and remain undiagnosed; the estimates range from 1% to 3% in youth and teens. When teens have OCD, they struggle with many aspects of daily life due to an overwhelming focus on scheduling, rules, organization, or details. Teens with obsessive-compulsive disorder may have difficulty in social situations and maintaining healthy, lasting relationships.
Paranoid Personality Disorder (PPD)
The statistics about paranoid personality disorder vary widely. Estimates suggest PPD affects between .5% and 4.5% of the population in the United States. Symptoms of paranoid personality disorder usually appear during the adolescent and teen years. A teen with PPD struggles with a pervasive distrust and suspicion of others, although there is no reason to have such feelings. Teens with paranoid personality disorder believe others are “out to get” or harm them.
Antisocial Personality Disorder
Research suggests approximately 4% of the population has an antisocial personality disorder. Although most cases of antisocial personality disorder are not formally diagnosed until one reaches age eighteen, some cases of adolescent and teen antisocial personality disorder occur. Also, other mental health conditions such as conduct disorder occur in youth and often evolve into a formal antisocial personality disorder diagnosis. Someone with antisocial personality disorder symptoms will exhibit a blatant disregard for others’ needs. This behavior frequently leads to significant problems with relationships, employment, and other fundamental social interactions.
Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD)
Statistics suggest narcissistic personality disorder or NPD affects up to 6% of the US population. A narcissistic personality disorder is more prevalent in males than females and occurs more frequently in a younger demographic. Symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder often first appear in the early teens or early twenties. Teens with NPD have a very “high opinion” of themselves and their achievements. They frequently seek admiration from others and fixate on achieving success and control. Someone with a narcissistic personality struggles to show empathy and compassion. They are often dismissive of others and cannot maintain personal or professional relationships.
Personality Disorder Causes and Risk Factors
Despite ongoing research, personality disorders remain the most misunderstood and least recognized mental health conditions. There is no single cause for personality disorders known to the mental health community. Like many mental health conditions, researchers believe a combination of factors including genetics, trauma, abuse, and family history may lead to new or worsening symptoms. The limited research about personality disorders does not indicate someone is “born” with a personality disorder.
Some personality disorders are thought to develop as a coping mechanism for stressful, traumatic, or complex life events or environmental circumstances like childhood abuse and neglect. When left untreated, symptoms of a personality disorder can evolve into significant psychological and social struggles. Also, someone with an untreated personality disorder, regardless of age, is at greater risk for drug or alcohol abuse.
Treatment for Personality Disorders at Beachside Teen Treatment Center
The most effective treatment for any teen personality disorder is a specialized treatment program at a teen-focused treatment center like Beachside. At our Los Angeles area treatment center, your teen’s mental health team will use several forms of evidence-based therapy as part of your teen’s treatment program. Examples include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) or psychodynamic therapy. The goal of therapy sessions for personality disorders is to help your teen recognize and assess triggering events or root causes that may have led to their symptoms. Therapy aims to help your teen better understand their symptoms and enhance their day-to-day function, both socially and in academic settings.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy or CBT is a widely used form of talk therapy. CBT sessions involve encouraging participants to recognize and change (replace) unhealthy or harmful thoughts and beliefs with helpful ones. Your teen’s therapist will also encourage them to test their thoughts and ideas to see if they have a functional basis or are “rooted in reality.” While learning about and addressing existing thoughts and behaviors, therapy will also help your teen develop healthier ways of thinking and behaving in all aspects of their lives.
Psychodynamic therapy is another form of talk therapy. This therapy model focuses on helping your teen become more in tune with unconscious thought patterns. Psychodynamic therapy helps encourage your teen to consider how past experiences may influence today’s behaviors and perceptions. Psychodynamic therapy also helps participants examine past traumas that may contribute to their current symptoms. Psychodynamic therapy is a proven therapy model that leads to long-lasting results with continuing benefits that persist well after treatment has ended.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved any medications for the direct treatment of personality disorders. However, depending on your teen’s symptoms, their providers may prescribe anti-anxiety medications or antidepressant medications to help reduce the intensity and severity of some symptoms that may hinder their treatment progress.
Without proper treatment, the symptoms of these disorders will not subside independently. Teens who do not receive treatment to address their symptoms will inevitably struggle further with their physical and emotional health. Additionally, interpersonal and social challenges that emerge from personality disorder symptoms may lead to the development of other mental health conditions, including depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and substance abuse disorders.
Varying Personality Disorder Symptoms
Symptoms of these disorders vary widely. Because there are many potential diagnoses, knowing what your teen’s symptoms mean can be challenging. In some instances, specific symptoms may be a part of “normal” teen growth and development, whereas, for others, your teen’s emotional struggles may point to a potential personality disorder.
Your teen’s primary care provider or a member of our team of mental health professionals can help your family understand more about the best next steps for treatment. We understand it is difficult to watch your teen struggle with symptoms they (and you) may not understand. Let us help your teen and family begin a journey towards a healthy, active, fulfilled future without the pressure of personality disorder symptoms.
Proper Treatment Environment
Seeking treatment from a mental health provider or at a treatment facility like Beachside can help your teen learn to manage the (sometimes) overwhelming and often complex symptoms that accompany many personality disorder diagnoses. Symptoms of these disorders vary widely depending on the specific condition. However, they share a common element. These disorders significantly limit your teen’s ability to function in their day-to-day life and substantially inhibit their ability to form meaningful and lasting relationships.
If you are concerned that your teen’s physical or emotional symptoms may involve a personality disorder, it is essential to seek help. While symptoms of some disorders are indeed more impactful to your teen’s daily life than others, all personality disorder diagnoses will inevitably impact your teen’s overall quality of life. However, these disorders are highly treatable with the right treatment environment. With help from our team at Beachside teen treatment center, your teen can learn more about managing their symptoms. During therapy, your teen will also learn more about coping skills and tools they can rely on to help manage triggering situations allowing them to remain engaged in academic, social, and family activities that are crucial for healthy development.
Contact us today to learn more about mental health treatment at our California-based teen treatment center.