Guide to Personality Disorder – What it is and How to Treat


The first goal we have when working with someone with a personality disorder is to utilize the therapeutic relationship and develop a trusting alliance with the client. Many clients with personality disorders struggle with this step and have been engaging in dysfunctional relational behaviors for long periods of time.

After following these dysfunctional patterns of relating to others, the patterns then become familiar and are repeated. Treatment has to begin with the recognition of that behavior. We work along with the client as they recognize their problematic patterns in relationships with others.

Clients with personality disorders develop belief systems that are fixated and rigid. We attempt to help clients understand that problematic beliefs are only symptoms and not who they are. Our intensive outpatient treatment approach has been successful at helping clients see that certain, problematic ways of relating to others are actually symptoms of other underlying conflict, sometimes related to previous attachment injuries.

By engaging our clients in healthy and supportive therapeutic relationships, and facilitating a safe space for them to relate to others through group therapy, we help them identify and address these conflicts or historical injuries. Those suffering from Borderline Personality Disorder need a very supportive environment in which they feel motivated.

People suffering from Borderline Personality Disorder experience intense feelings, and they will go to great lengths to avoid the intense pain associated with those feelings. Their feelings are not integrated. Rather, their feelings are split into good feelings and bad feelings, and they flip back and forth between them.  

At Balance, we work to help those with BPD to help integrate their feelings so that they can learn how to have one relationship in which all of their feelings can be expressed and valid.

Who Can Treat a Personality Disorder?

Treating personality disorders often involves a multidisciplinary approach, and various mental health professionals can play a role in providing effective treatment. Here are some professionals who can help treat personality disorders:

  • Psychiatrists: These medical doctors specialize in mental health and can diagnose and treat personality disorders. They can prescribe medications to manage symptoms and often work in conjunction with other mental health professionals to provide comprehensive care.
  • Psychologists: Psychologists are trained in psychological assessment and therapy. They can offer various types of therapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), or psychodynamic therapy, to help individuals manage symptoms and improve coping strategies. They can also provide psychological testing to identify specific areas that need attention and support.
  • Licensed Counselors or Therapists: These professionals provide counseling and therapy, offering support and guidance to individuals with personality disorders as well as other mental health conditions. They may specialize in specific types of therapy or approaches tailored to an individual's needs.

Our treatment programs are different. We are attacking the infrastructure, or roots, on which the conflict, psychological problem or mental illness is based. This is done in a secure, protected and safe environment with our highly trained and experienced team, made up exclusively of professional clinicians accountable to a state regulated, professional board.

What is a Personality Disorder?

A personality disorder is a mental health condition where an individual's thoughts, emotions, and behaviors differ significantly from societal norms and expectations. These patterns of behavior are pervasive, inflexible, and can cause distress or impairment in various aspects of life, including relationships, work, physical health and self-image.

The traits of a personality disorder typically emerge during adolescence or early adulthood. Personality disorders are not diagnosed until adulthood as the traits must persist over time. Encompassing a range of conditions, each with its own unique features and challenges, personality disorders affect the way individuals perceive and relate to themselves, others, and the world around them.

Some common characteristics of personality disorders include:

  • Distorted Thinking Patterns: Individuals may have rigid or extreme ways of thinking, which might lead to misunderstandings, misinterpretations, or mistrust of others.
  • Unstable Emotions: Mood swings, intense emotional reactions, and difficulty managing emotions are often observed.
  • Troubled Relationships: Individuals may struggle with forming and maintaining stable and healthy relationships due to challenges in understanding and relating to others.
  • Impulse Control Issues: Impulsive or risky behaviors, such as substance abuse, reckless driving, or self-harm, may be present.
  • Difficulty Functioning in Society: These conditions can interfere with daily life activities, work, and social interactions.

It's crucial to understand that having a personality disorder doesn't make someone "flawed" or inherently bad. These disorders arise from a complex interplay of genetic, environmental, and social factors, which can be identified, addressed and treated.

Where Can You Treat a Personality Disorder?

Mental health treatment centers, also known as outpatient therapy centers, psychiatric treatment facilities or Mental Health rehab centers, are specialized establishments designed to provide comprehensive care for individuals struggling with mental health conditions.

These centers offer a range of services, including assessment, diagnosis, therapy, medication management, and support for individuals dealing with many levels of mental health concerns.

Balance Treatment Center has 7 treatment centers in California. Each local treatment center offers a variety of treatment options including mental health intensive outpatient programs, teen programs, kids programs and partial hospitalization programs.

Patients diagnosed with personality disorders require advanced clinical skills for effective treatment. Often, these individuals turn to substances to cope with emotional pain. However, solely focusing on substance abuse treatment may worsen underlying symptoms. Therefore, we advocate for providing primary mental health treatment programs for patients with personality disorders. These programs offer a more comprehensive approach that addresses both substance abuse and underlying mental health issues, ensuring better outcomes for patients.

Why Should We Treat a Personality Disorder?

Treating personality disorders is important for several reasons, primarily to help individuals improve their quality of life and well-being. Here are some key reasons why treatment for personality disorders is essential:

  • Enhanced Relationships: Therapy and treatment can help individuals with personality disorders learn healthier ways to interact with others, fostering more stable and fulfilling interpersonal relationships.
  • Improved Functioning: Treatment aims to address symptoms that may interfere with daily life, work, and social interactions. Managing these symptoms can significantly enhance a person's ability to function effectively in various situations.
  • Reduced Distress: Many individuals with personality disorders experience distress, anxiety, or emotional turmoil. Treatment can alleviate these feelings, leading to a better overall mental and emotional state.
  • Enhanced Coping Skills: Therapy provides tools and techniques to manage intense emotions, impulsive behaviors, or distorted thinking patterns associated with personality disorders.
  • Prevention of Complications: Left untreated, personality disorders could lead to other mental health issues, substance abuse problems, difficulties in relationships, and challenges in professional settings. Addressing these disorders early can prevent or reduce the risk of these complications.
  • Improved Self-Understanding: Treatment encourages self-reflection and understanding of one's thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. This self-awareness can be empowering and lead to personal growth.

Ultimately, treatment for personality disorders aims to help individuals lead more fulfilling lives by reducing symptoms, improving relationships, and enhancing their ability to cope with the challenges they face.

Therapy and support from mental health professionals play a crucial role in this process, offering guidance and tools for managing the complexities of these disorders.

When Should You Treat a Personality Disorder?

Treating a personality disorder is recommended when its symptoms significantly impact an individual's life, causing distress or impairing their ability to function in various areas such as relationships, work, or personal well-being.

Here are some indicators that suggest treatment for a personality disorder might be necessary:

  • Distress and Dysfunction: When the symptoms of a personality disorder cause significant distress, emotional turmoil, or interfere with daily life activities, work, or relationships, seeking treatment becomes crucial.
  • Impact on Relationships: If the disorder affects one's ability to form and maintain healthy relationships, leading to conflicts, isolation, or difficulty in social interactions, treatment can help improve these dynamics.
  • Risk of Harm: When there's a risk of self-harm, suicidal thoughts, or behaviors associated with the disorder, immediate intervention and treatment are essential.
  • Work or School Impairment: If the disorder affects job performance, academic success, or the ability to fulfill responsibilities, seeking help can prevent further decline and improve functioning.
  • Consistent Patterns: If problematic patterns of thinking, behavior, or emotions persist and cause ongoing challenges, treatment can help address these enduring issues.
  • Personal Motivation: When an individual recognizes their struggles and is motivated to seek help, engage in therapy, and work towards personal growth, it's an ideal time for treatment.
  • Support from Professionals: Mental health professionals can assess the severity and impact of symptoms, guiding individuals and their loved ones toward appropriate treatment options.

Early intervention is often beneficial in managing personality disorders. However, treatment can be sought at any point when symptoms become distressing or start affecting various aspects of life.

Therapy, counseling, and sometimes medication can be effective in managing symptoms, improving coping skills, and ultimately enhancing overall well-being through the resolution of dysfunctional relational patterns. Ultimately, the decision to seek treatment should be based on the individual's specific circumstances and their readiness to engage in the therapeutic process.