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More Than Just a Mood

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Someone with a personality disorder thinks, feels, behaves, or relates to others very differently from the average person. Let’s gain some insight into this often-misunderstood condition.

What is a personality disorder?

Personality disorders are long-term patterns of behaviour and inner experiences that are significantly different from the normal expected ones. It is a rigid and unhealthy pattern of thinking, functioning, and behaving, where those affected have trouble in perceiving and relating to situations and people. This leads to significant problems and limitations in relationships, social activities, work, and school.

At what ages do most symptoms start to show?

Personality disorders usually begin in the teenage years or early adulthood.

If unaddressed, what do personality disorders look like in adult life?

There is a range of scenarios. Anti-social behaviour, for instance, will see disregard for others, acting aggressively, and violating other rights. Oppositional Defiant Disorder will see those affected become destructive with their own lives and the lives of others, with substance abuse, depression, Bipolar Disorder, psychosis, and relationship issues. With Narcissistic Personality Disorder, there is an ‘I’m okay, you’re not okay’ attitude, fragile self-esteem, the abuse of others, and a need to constantly seek approval. Cychlothymic sees mood swings between short periods of mild depression, hypomania (an elevated mood), and a high risk of later developing Bipolar I or II Disorder and suicidal thoughts.

At what point should parents seek professional help?

When the behaviour gets uncontrollable, if continuous complaints are received from school, when the child never listens, is too submissive or depressed in a regular pattern, too hyperactive, risks life by doing adventurous actions, when they show some obsessive compulsive behaviour such as frequent hand washing, or are always worried about body image. Also, fearful, destructive and vindictive behaviour, which is not controllable by parents or teachers.

What help is available?

Neuroplasticity is an excellent tool, helping to stop and disconnect the person from wrong behaviour and form appropriate new beliefs and behaviour through cognitive behavioural therapy. By applying regular social skills, therapy and cognitive therapy can help, for instance, to deal with avoidant personality disorder successfully. The duration of the therapy depends on the severity of the disorder.

Susan Koruthu is a social care professional licenced under the Community Development Authority Dubai, specializing in teens, parents, marriage, personality, and performance. Along with being the director of professional practices at Sceptre Global, she also holds a PhD, MSW, MSc, and MBA in Applied Psychology, and is the author of ‘Listen Mom & Dad, I Am Your Teen Speaking’

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