Personality DisordersAfter working with many persons diagnosed with a personality disorder and their family members, there are several mistaken assumptions that seem to be commonly held. Here are ten of these errors:

  1. Personality Traits = Personality Disorder. A person can have the traits of a personality disorder without being fully diagnosed. For instance, they may demonstrate narcissistic behavior at work but not at home. In order to be a personality disorder, the symptoms must be pervasive in multiple environments.
  2. Personality Disorder = Abusive Behavior. Not all persons with a diagnosed personality disorder demonstrate abusive behavior. Nor does all abusive behavior mean a person has a personality disorder. A person can have a personality disorder and not treat others in an abusive manner. Likewise a person with a personality disorder may be abusive towards others. Abuse is not a natural outcome of a personality disorder.
  3. Personality Disorder Looks the Same on Everyone. The reason for the classification of different personality disorders is that there are noticeable similarities. But this does not mean that everyone will look exactly the same. A person with a diagnosed disorder of Borderline Personality Disorder may not look the exact same as another person. They might share similar characteristics but their life experience, emotions, reactions, work history, and relationship history might look very different.
  4. Personality Disorder = Work Dysfunction. While some individuals may struggle at work, there are many persons with a diagnosed personality disorder who function quite well in a work environment. Some professions are even better suited to a particular type of personality disorder. For instance, a person with Paranoid Personality Disorder can make an excellent detective, investigator or intelligence officer.
  5. Personality Disorder Explains Everything. To the contrary, a personality disorder is frequently the beginning of understanding not the end of it. Personality disorders can be co-mingled with a variety of other disorders including another personality disorder. The personality disorder just helps to frame the other disorders such as depression, anxiety, addiction, or conduct disorders.
  6. Personality Disorders Display All the Characteristics. There is a reason the DSM-V states that a person needs four or more of the eight possible characteristics of Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder. Not all persons with the same diagnosis display all of the traits. Discounting the diagnosis because a few traits are missing does an injustice to the diagnosis.
  7. Culture Has No Bearing On Personality Disorders. A person’s cultural background must be taken into account prior to diagnosing a personality disorder. For instance, some cultures encourage emotional detachment while others encourage strong emotional attachment. Taken out of context, a person might appear to have a personality disorder when in actuality they are following the norm of their cultural background.
  8. Personality Disorders Should Be Avoided. Many people with a personality disorder make excellent friends, spouses, parents or co-workers. Some do not. The judgement call to engage or maintain a relationship with a person who has a personality disorder should be based on their individual merits not on the disorder as a whole.
  9. Personality Disorders Are Gender Specific. They are not. There might be more recorded cases of Histrionic Personality Disorder in females over males but this does not mean that it cannot occur in males. There are even slight differences in how a personality disorder manifests in each gender. The diagnosis does not take into account a gender before making the determination of one personality disorder over another.
  10. Personality Disorders Are Untreatable. As always in counseling, a person gets out of it what they put in it. Anyone can change if they make the choice but only the individual can choose. Begging, pleading, manipulating, or intimidating is not good methods for inspiring healthy change. Even a person with an Anti-Social Personality Disorder can change to conform to society norms but they must want to do it for themselves.