Personality traits refer to the relatively stable ways of people observing themselves and their surroundings, as well as their manners of interacting with other people. According to modern psychiatric concepts, a person is considered to be suffering from a specific personality disorder when their stable, long-term behavioural patterns differ from the culturally accepted ways of acting, feeling and thinking, as well as of interacting with other people.
It is possible that a person with a specific personality disorder does not suffer as a result of the disorder. However, it is common that people with specific personality disorders suffer on a personal level, their ability to function becomes limited, and their chances to change their lives are diminished.
The line between so-called normal and deviant personalities is always determined by culturally-based agreements about norms and varies from one case to another. Under stressful circumstances, people not suffering from specific personality disorders can present behavioural patterns typical of personality disorders, as well; in addition, these traits may appear at some stages of development or in specific life situations.
The reasons for developing a specific personality disorder vary
Specific personality disorders develop during childhood and adolescence and they can be identified in young adults. Childhood environment affects the development of the disorder: for example, being subjected to constant violence or to the continuous dismissal of parents could explain why some people develop specific personality disorders.
In addition to the early developmental environment, biological and genetic factors affect the development of the disorder, as well. The reasons for specific personality disorders cannot be thoroughly explained, nor can such early developmental environments be determined as would automatically lead to the development of a specific personality disorder.
Psychotherapy can make a difference in the rigid behaviour models of specific personality disorders
Specific personality disorders are different from changes in personality caused by physical or mental illnesses or substance abuse, for instance. People suffering from specific personality disorders often do not realise their behaviour is difficult.
They rarely seek treatment for the specific personality disorder as such; instead, they seek professional help for crises, depression, anxiety, or for some other kind of difficult situation in life caused by the specific personality disorder. In order for the treatment to be successful, it is important that the patient wants to change their behaviour. It is possible for people with specific personality disorders to change their rigid models of reaction and behaviour with the help of intense psychotherapy and/or medication, for example.
Narcissism has recently received plenty of attention
The narcissistic personality disorder has received a lot of attention lately in online discussion forums and other media. Psychiatry divides specific personality disorders into different categories. These are paranoid personalities, schizoid personalities, dissocial personalities, emotionally unstable personalities, histrionic personalities, anankastic personalities, avoidant personalities, dependent personalities and narcissistic personalities. To some extent, the narcissistic problems of regulating self-esteem are included in all specific personality disorders.
The actual narcissistic personality disorder refers to a person with a heightened need for admiration and unfounded expectations of others considering them as superior; narcissistic people exploit other people. The depression sometimes involved in the narcissistic personality disorder can be treated with psychotherapy but there is no evidence of the effects of therapy or medication to the actual specific personality disorder.