Auckland Therapy Counselling and Psychotherapy

Personality disorders

What are personality disorders

Overwhelmed boy - Personality disorders @ Auckland Therapy counselling and psychotherapyPersonality disorder is a term used to describe people with extreme personalities - such that their personality significantly interferes with their life and relationships. It covers a wide range of clinical presentations centred on clusters of personality traits that fall outside social norms. The clusters form three groups:

  • odd or eccentric
  • dramatic, emotional or erratic
  • anxious or fearful

They are distinct from episodic disorders such as anxiety and depression as they are relatively unchanging. They are also district from psychotic disorders as people with a personality disorder are still in touch with reality. Of course, people with these disorders are not immune to anxiety, depression, addictions or serious mental-health episodes etc.

This is a controversial subject as a personality diagnosis is sometimes seen as an easy way of scapegoating people considered 'difficult' and a way of putting them in the 'too-hard basket'. There is also a considerable amount of misdiagnosis of other conditions such as Autism/Aspergers, PTSD, addictions, traumatic brain injury etc.

BPD Borderline Personality Disorder

Overwhelmed girl - Personality disorders @ Auckland Therapy counselling and psychotherapyThis controversy is particularly true of BPD Borderline Personality Disorder. For people labelled with BPD, this diagnosis is often unhelpful as the evidence strongly suggests that BPD is most often the result of seriously disrupted childhoods including trauma, abuse or neglect.

Indeed, there is a strong move to change the diagnostic label from BPD to Complex PTSD. This change in label is more than window-dressing as it :

  • acknowledges the reality of difficult childhoods
  • provides hope for recovery through treatment of the trauma and PTSD


While the origins of personality disorders are often complex, psychotherapy offers patiently steadfast and on-going treatment, with the understanding that:

  • disorders have causes (however deeply buried)
  • an empathic & skillful therapist helps the process of healing
  • client and therapist can work together to understanding those causes
  • gaining self-knowledge and insight allows clients to make real and significant change

Also see Trauma & PTSD,  Mental health issuesBipolar disorder, Sexual abuse or Emotional issues