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Mental health

Myth#5 People with personality disorder aren’t really ill

Welcome to my mini series of myth busting blogs, this one is all about personality disorders. Find links to the others at the bottom, please read and share, we need to break down these inaccurate beliefs in order for people with mental illness to stop being discriminated against.

Let’s set this one straight immediately – Personality Disorders are listed as mental illnesses in the DSM 5 and the ICD 10 – the 2 most widely used diagnostic manuals.

Personality disorders (PD) are unique and highly misunderstood, this leads to people receiving poor treatment and falling through the gaps in services.

Even mental health institutions are getting this one wrong when they say things like “treat patients with enduring mental illness and personality disorder”, this says personality disorders are separate from mental illnesses. This is taken directly from the details of a hospital site:

I understand it’s important to mention it specifically as there are lots of places who would support people with mental illness and complex care needs but would not admit people with personality disorder, however, this would be simple to fix, they could put “…complex care need INCLUDING personality disorder”.

There are 10 classifications of personality disorder which fit into 3 clusters, they each have criteria that must be met in order for the diagnosis to be given. Diagnosis is a complex process of gathering information about the patient’s history and the difficulties they face. Read more about the specifics on this post from Psychology Today.

All too often I’ve seen individuals with this diagnosis fall through the gaps in services; personality disorders are complicated and misunderstood, general community mental health services are not specialised enough and the specialised services are a rarity and (where they do exist) under funded.

A fundamental symptom of personality disorders is a difficulty in maintaining healthy relationships, this includes professional relationships and as such, specialist services with adequately qualified professionals, are vital. (Expecting the community mental health team to support and manage people with personality disorder is like expecting GPs to do brain surgery.)

It is possible for sufferers to manage their condition, it takes a lot of hard work and a lot of support, because the symptoms are so varied and complex but it is possible for individuals to develop a life worth living.

I have seen inexperienced and under qualified professionals see the label ‘personality disorder’ and see this as permission to ignore, give up on or treat the individual badly.

I have also seen people who do not meet the criteria for a diagnosis of personality disorder, be given it because their symptoms and behaviour are proving challenging and labelling them as ‘PD’ is an excuse to discharge them from care (and give up on them).
Giving up on psychiatric patients is so far beyond unacceptable, there are no words to express my anger and frustration when I see this.

If the professionals don’t even understand these unique disorders and are seen to give up on their patients, we will never be able to break down the stigma and discrimination that exists with the general public.

We’re making good progress with understanding and accepting illnesses such as depression and anxiety but we’ve got a long way to go for public to understand personality disorders, by sharing blogs like this, we will make more progress.

Myth#1 – Mental illness is a sign of weakness

Myth#2 – Men need to get in touch with their feminine side to show their emotion

Myth#3 – Bipolar is more serious than depression and it’s preferable to have anorexia over bulimia

Myth#4 – If someone harms themselves they’re just attention seeking

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