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Personality disorders

People with personality disorders tend to have longstanding difficulties in managing relationships with others and their emotions. These difficulties originate from early experiences. 

For example, it is common for people with personality disorders to have experienced some form of abuse or neglect in their childhoods. These early experiences affect the way in which the person comes to view the world and others around them, their expectations of how others will respond and treat them. This in turn affects how a person interacts with and approaches others and their ways of coping.

Features can include;

  • frequently becoming overwhelmed by difficult feelings
  • having difficulty managing emotions without self-harming, using drugs or alcohol or other risky behaviours
  • difficulty maintaining stable and close relationships
  • feeling emotionally disconnected and avoiding people

The term personality disorder is used to describe the way in which such difficulties are pervasive and enduring so that we can think of them as part of the person’s personality, rather than as a separate collection of symptoms. They arise out of the person’s emotional development being impacted in a way that has longstanding consequences. This tends to be extremely difficult for the person and they may require long term help in order to understand these aspects of themself and their ways of relating to others.

There are many kinds of personality disorder; these tend to be diagnosed once a person reaches adulthood, by a psychiatrist. Prior to adulthood the personality is still in a state of development and flux and so it is not generally helpful to consider diagnosis earlier in life.  However, during adolescence and young adulthood, the term ‘emerging personality disorder’ might be used to describe particular patterns and difficulties in relating to others that may be developing. Here at the Tavistock our approach is to try to understand each person as an individual, to help them think about themselves and reach a better understanding of their particular difficulties.

How we can help

We work with children, families, adolescents and young adults to help understand issues in emotional development as they arise. We believe that this can enable young people to enter adulthood with greater emotional resources, helping to prevent more entrenched difficulties arising in later life.