Living With Personality Disorders - The Greatest Stigma

Jordan Brown

I asked a question on Twitter yesterday.

I asked: "What is a mental illness that you feel gets little to no attention?"

While there were a variety of responses, one topic grabbed people's attention as being particularly elusive.

Personality disorders.

Now, there's no way that I could cover all personality disorders in a short newsletter, so I'm going to focus on a few points that you need to know.

This is a sensitive topic, but we need to talk about it.

What Are Personality Disorders?

Whether you know it or not, you or someone else you know lives with a personality disorder.

There are the ones you've probably heard of, such as borderline personality disorder and narcissistic personality disorder, but then there are ones that hardly get any attention at all--like histrionic personality disorder and dependent personality disorder.

I can feel your eyes starting to glaze ever through the computer screen, so hang in there for a few seconds more.

The Mental Health Update isn't about boring definitions--it's about practical information you can use in your everyday life.

But it's also about addressing topics that might make people uncomfortable.

It's at the edge of comfort where learning and growth happens.

So let's go there together.

Living With Personality Disorders - The Greatest Stigma of All

You've probably heard words like "narcissist" and "borderline" thrown about.

But you've probably never heard those words used in a kind way.

Why is that?

It's because personality disorders come attached with SO MUCH stigma, even within the mental health field.

I worked in a large east coast hospital a few years back--in an inpatient mental health unit, mind you--where doctors and nurses regularly dismissed, and even made fun of, patients with the diagnosis of borderline personality disorder.

To put it mildly, it was awful to witness and hear things like this coming from medical professionals claiming to be operating in a healing capacity.

But it didn't surprise me.

Because personality disorders are difficult.

When someone wants all of your attention and then pushes you away as soon as you provide it, it can be infuriating.

When someone makes it all about them and manipulates you with their words and actions, it can be maddening.

You don't have to be a trained physician to know that some kinds of personalities are really challenging to deal with.

And this is exactly why we must talk about it more.

Because, the important thing to remember is this:

People who happen to have personality disorders are human beings too. No matter what they do or say, people with personality disorders were also let down by the mental health system in ways big and small.

Which reminds me, I also worked in a middle school mental health program, and something awful happened there as well.

Challenging students started to get labeled as likely having conduct disorder, which is one step away from antisocial personality disorder in the minds of laypeople and medical professionals alike.

Even if this WAS NOT the diagnosis--and it doesn't really matter if it was or not--once a kid was labeled as such, he was deemed irredeemable and largely pushed to the side by the school system.

Challenge Yourself to Learn About Personality Disorders

Why am I sharing these sad stories with you?

To show you that we can't bin the blame on individuals for the mental illnesses they face.

Yes, some illnesses are much more challenging than others, but that doesn't mean we should blame the individual while ignoring the root issues and the societal impact.

If you'd like to learn more about personality disorders, click the link at the start of the first section.

Better yet, hear it from someone dealing with one, in her own words.