Your Disorder is Showing

Personality disorders are as fascinating as the disorder itself. Let’s face it. We’ve all met someone in our lifetime that’s suffered from an unbridled disorder. We know there’s something not quite right them, they know there’s something not quite right about themselves, but we all just quietly go on about the business of co-existing peacefully. What happens when peace can’t be achieved? Do you walk away? Do you stay and try to find a resolve?

Narcissism. Not just for dummies.

Narcissism. Not just for dummies.

15 years of innocuously studying psychology has led me to where I am today – not a psychologist or even a counselor, but one who has a firm grasp on the human psyche. This may seem narcissistic, however, for personal reasons I’ve invested much time and money into my research going as far as discussing my knowledge with psychologists and psychiatrists alike. Keep in mind I am not saying I’m on par with either, quite the contrary; rather I simply feel confident in my knowledge to share what I’ve learned.

There are three different clusters of personality disorders. They are:

Cluster A – Paranoid, Schizoid, and Schizotypal

Cluster B – Histrionic, Narcissistic, Antisocial, and Borderline

Cluster C – Avoidant and Obsessive-compulsive

With two Provisional Categories – Passive-Aggressive and Depressive

Now before we board the Crazy Train please make sure you’ve got your tickets to ride, keep your hands and feet safely in the compartment, and, as my grandma-in-law used to say, smile and nod because crazy people like it.

An interesting side note is that most people who have personality disorders rarely seek help or for that matter are even diagnosed. It’s only when they face personal crisis such as self harm or legal trouble that it becomes clear to the psychologist or medical professional involved. To gain an accurate estimate of percentage of the population who suffers from these disorders would be nearly impossible. Would that then show that the statics are actually greater than what they are showing?Narc2

Again as a reminder I am not a professional with a degree. I am merely hobbyist who has studied psychology for several years and has, when I could, verified my knowledge with  professionals. The reason for verification revolved around a custody case that turned into much more and, again, you’ll need to read the book to get the whole picture.

Given the extensiveness of the clusters I’ll be focusing on parts of Cluster B with future posts exploring other disorders. Why Cluster B? For that you’ll just have to simply read the book that’s due out soon. More on that in future posts.

First let me point out that to be classified with a disorder the person needs to have a long-standing pattern of behavior contrasting with societal culture. It can be traced back to adolescence or early adulthood. The pattern must be rigid and affect nearly every aspect of the person life – work, relationships, school, etc. Additionally, it’s common for someone to have more than one disorder and/or other mental health issues, as well. Examples would be Narcissistic and Histrionic with substance abuse issues; or Paranoid with Anxiety and Depression.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) generally affects men, while Histrionic Personality Disorder (HPD) affects mainly women, though it’s not unheard of for men to be histrionic or women to be narcissistic.

Narc1NPD has a host of symptoms and it’s safe to imagine that at one point or another you’ve encountered a narcissist. Perhaps you’re still working on a relationship with one. In order to begin to be classified as narcissistic the person would need to reach five or more of the following criteria:

Lacks empathy; unwilling to acknowledge the feelings or thoughts of others

Grandiose sense of self

Thoroughly believes he/she is unique/special and only values those of the same importance

Has unlimited fantasies of power or brilliance

Overly concerned with appearance and strongly believes they are, literally, perfect

Prone to exaggerate accolades, achievements, and abilities; lying

Requires regular recognition of their superior abilities; exaggerated need for praise and adoration

Believes they are entitled to whatever they want

Will readily use people to obtain their goals

Envious of others and concludes others feel exactly as he/she does about him/her

Arrogant behavior; may be accompanied by rage

Histrionic2Histrionic Personality Disorder is much like NPD and can be difficult to distinguish between the two. As with any personality disorder to be classified as having such the person would need to reach five or more of the following criteria:

Continual attention or being the center of attention; is uncomfortable otherwise

Style of speech is annoyingly vague, lacking details, evocative

Sexually suggestive beyond societal normality, including speech, topic of conversation, and style of dress

Uses style of dress to attract or garner attention

Emotionally shallow and incapable of expressing genuine concern or empathy

Melodramatic, prone to drama induced instances, think Drama Queen or Drama Mama on steroids

Relationships, like mirrors, are closer than they seem or rather they consider relationships to be further along or closer than they actually are

An example of someone with NPD and HPD is showcased in the story below:

Ben has worked for Acme Corporation for a little less than three months. His job as Quality Control is unfulfilling and he considers it beneath him. He tells his family and friends that he has a high paying job in which he is the head of Quality Control and even assists in the creation of new products.

He is continuously late to work and has been given several warnings.

One morning his boss, Al, pulls him into the office to explain that due to his tardiness he will be terminated. Ben is angry and denies being late. He states he was driving along the freeway and stopped to help a motorist. He quickly realized the woman was in labor and delivered the child himself as police and aid drove by. Ben continues stating that he’s the best employee they have and that he deserves a raise for all the mistakes he’s caught his coworkers making.

After several minutes of pointless arguing, Al shows Ben the video of Ben’s arrival. Though it’s clear that Ben arrived half an hour late for his shift, he fully denies his actions offering justifications about why Al may believe he’s late.

Al again explains that because of his absence a coworker had to miss a very important doctor’s appointment. Ben re-explains his reasoning, all the while never accepting responsibility, never admitting fault, creating elaborate excuses as well as the one he’s already used, and places blame upon others – stating his coworker should have scheduled the appointment for a better time and that what he was doing – delivering a baby – was more important.

Having had enough Al stops Ben from launching into yet another variation of Ben’s story that’s drastically different the last few and orders him to leave the property. Ben becomes enraged. He clenches his fists, his knuckles turn white, his face turns red with anger and he slowly advances toward Al making him feel threatened. Ben suddenly yells “I AM NOT LATE! I AM NEVER LATE!” Demeaning names are screamed at Al and possibly even threats are made. Then suddenly the rage is over and Ben storms from the building never to be heard from again.

Histrionic1If you think about all the people you’ve encountered some characteristics begin to emerge. Each of us embodies some traits of personality disorders. However this doesn’t mean we all suffer from such. Just as more than one person has a love for jazz, we all share an interest – to varying degrees – in music.

Your turn. Have you ever met a narcissist or histrionic? Share your stories and thoughts below.

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4 Responses to Your Disorder is Showing

  1. I’d like to refute one item. You said “An interesting side note is that most people who have personality disorders rarely seek help or for that matter are even diagnosed. It’s only when they face personal crisis such as self harm or legal trouble that it becomes clear to the psychologist or medical professional involved. To gain an accurate estimate of percentage of the population who suffers from these disorders would be nearly impossible. Would that then show that the statics are actually greater than what they are showing?”

    On the contrary, people with personality disorders want help and many of them do seek it out. There are thousands of borderlines online, many of whom I’ve spoken to in forums, who are seeking help and understanding for the condition. And, they don’t only seek help when there’s a personal crisis.

    Interestingly, you don’t cite any evidence or even a clear number/percentage around the assertion that “most personality disorders rarely seek help” (which suggests more than 50%)… but then you say that “to gain an accurate estimate of the percentage of the population who suffers from these disorders would be nearly impossible”… isn’t there a contradiction there?

    If you’d like to read about how one very motivated former borderline did seek out help and recovered fully to become non-bordeline, check out my blog.

    • Tara Aarness says:

      Not every personality disorder enables the person to clearly feel that something is awry. I do not disagree that bipolar happens to be one of where people seek help. However as I plainly showcased narcissists and histrionics alike rarely seek help as they genuinely believe there is nothing wrong with them; it is everyone else that has the issue. My blog post revolved solely around these two disorders in which I’ve much experience with those who suffer from it.
      Your experience is with bipolar and I commend you for not only seeking help, but for speaking out, as well. Unfortunately, most people with personality disorders don’t seek help and once they do they rarely continue (below is a helpful link). Again, I applaud your efforts and feel that you are an inspiration to others with BPD. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

  2. It seems like you misread my message. I said I had Borderline (Personality Disorder) not bipolar.

    The link you provided is interesting but questionable. I looked up the main guy they quoted (Lynch) and he is a professor and researcher, but not a regular therapist for borderlines. The notion that 70% of borderlines drop out of treatment is a number he threw out without any evidence. I would question what the source for that was? If we’re going to make statistical claims, we need to back them up with scientific evidence. Since he did not do so, and in the absence of other wide-ranging, large-population survey evidence, it must remain an open question what proportion of those with personality disorders do or do not seek help.

    You also said, “To gain an accurate estimate of percentage of the population who suffers from these disorders would be nearly impossible. Would that then show that the statics (sic) are actually greater than what they are showing?” This also undermines your point that most people with disorders do not seek treatment. If we cannot even accurately determine how many people have these problems, how can be begin to know in the first place what proportion of those people seek help?

    There are many other critiques I could make of these assertions. I will make one more. Personality disorders are known to be diagnostically unreliable and, arguably, invalid and non-medical (i.e. they do not exist as distinct conditions which are separable from less severe versions of the same clusters of traits). This is discussed at length in such books as The Book of Woe (by Greenberg) and Warning: Psychiatry Can be Hazardous to Your Health (Glasser).

    If personality disorders cannot be consistently and reliably diagnosed, one would have to call into question the validity of any and all statistics based on attempts to “diagnose” these disorders. That is the point which undermines your claims at the deepest level. Perhaps it’s better to admit how limited our knowledge is, rather than attempting to statistically describe conditions which are not valid, reliably diagnosable medical disorders in the first place.

    • Tara Aarness says:

      My apologies for misreading; thank you for the correction. I don’t feel that I what stated in my post or comments were contradicting, but rather showing the complexity of this issue, and it is complex. This post is merely an attempt to help assist the family and friends recognize the behavior of a loved one who is exhibiting traits of NPD or HPD. Future posts will include how to have a relationship with their loved one without losing their sanity. As stated in your “About Me” page on your blog you’re 28, if I’m not mistaken, and I’m 41. As we each grow older we will both continue to learn from life, as well as others. In this instance it’d be prudent to agree to disagree. As always thank you for taking the time to read and comment, and I wish you much success and happiness.

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