The Most Important Things for Parents to Know About Personality Disorders in Teens

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( — February 6, 2020) — According to the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC), nearly 15 percent of all Americans suffer from a diagnosable personality disorder. Furthermore, about half of all individuals diagnosed with at least one other medical condition have a personality disorder, making this group of conditions statistically more common than any other.

Personality disorders, while often broadly defined, can create many different problems from those who are currently suffering from them. Personality disorders make it difficult for teens to perform well in school, to create stable and fulfilling relationships, and to pursue long-term goals.

The teenage years are naturally characterized by large amounts of emotional change, but teens that are experiencing borderline personality disorders face an additional set of emotional changes. Many of these teens may even realize that their experiences, reactions, and decisions are measurably abnormal, yet, they remain unsure where to turn or who to ask for help.

In this article, we will discuss the most important things for parents to know about personality disorders in teens. These conditions, when properly diagnosed, can be effectively managed. As the parent of a teen suffering from a personality disorder, it may be up to you to make a difference.

What is a personality disorder?

Personality Disorders are categorized and defined in both the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) and the International Classification of Diseases (ICD). According toWebMD, “People with personality disorders have long-standing patterns of thinking and acting that differ from what society considers usual or normal.”

Individuals who exhibit “unusual” behavior will typically only be diagnosed with a personality disorder if these traits create problems in their life or otherwise interfere with their ability to function. Thus, not all eccentric teens will have a diagnosable personality disorder.

It is also important to recognize that personality disorders are somewhat subjective. Things that are considered normal can vary by culture and by circumstance. In order to make these disorders have a legitimate psychological meaning, it will be crucial for the psychologist to look at all components of your teen’s life.

What are the different categories of teen personality disorders?

There are many different types of mental health conditions that could qualify as a personality disorder. In order to better understand and treat these conditions, psychologists will typically place these conditions into various clusters. Currently, the clusters in use are Cluster A (odd), Cluster B (dramatic), Cluster C (anxious), and unspecified.

  1. Cluster A includes the “eccentric” disorders, including paranoid personality disorder, schizoid personality disorder, and schizotypal personality disorder. These individuals will likely feel mistrust of others, detachment from relationships, and consistent social discomfort.
  2. Cluster B includes the “erratic” disorders, which includes antisocial personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, histrionic personality disorder, and narcissistic personality disorder. These individuals can feel intense mood swings, have a consistent need for validation/praise, lack empathy, act impulsively, and engage in patterns of self-harm.
  3. Cluster C includes the “fearful” disorders, such as avoidant personality disorder, dependent personality disorder, and obsessive-compulsive personality disorder. These individuals may be extremely sensitive to criticism and may demand for things to be perfect.

Other personality disorders, generally described as “un-clustered” include depressive, haltlose, passive-aggressive, self-defeating, sadistic, and psychopathic personality disorders. It is not uncommon for an individual to experience multiple personality disorders at once, even ones from different clusters. When this is the case, having access to personalized treatment will be especially important.,

How do I know if my teen has a personality disorder? (Signs, Symptoms, etc.)

Despite the personality disorders mentioned above being noticeably different from one another, there are still quite a few signs and symptoms of personality disorders that are nearly universal. Sudden (negative) changes in your teen’s life—regarding school, their relationships, their work, their interests, and anything else—may indicate that your teen is developing a personality disorder. Many teens will retreat into social isolation as the effects of the disorder begin to worsen.

Furthermore, teens who are suffering from personality disorders are likely to change their eating, sleeping, and other daily habits (usually in a way that is unhealthy). Your teen will be likely to have difficulty trusting others and will display defensive behavior on a regular basis. Personality disorders often overlap with other mental health conditions, including depression, anxiety, PTSD, and many others. There is also a strong connection between substance abuse and personality disorders, which is something parents will want to pay close attention to.

Personality disorders can be triggered by many different factors, both environmental and genetic. Teens that were raised in a different culture may also demonstrate behaviors that are considered abnormal (one of the reasons why diagnosing personality disorders can be rather controversial). There is no clear line between what constitutes a personality disorder and what is simply considered unusual behavior. However, when multiple signs are present and the condition is affecting your teen’s daily life, then professional help may be needed.

What are the best treatments for teen personality disorders?

Once your teen has received a formal diagnosis for their personality disorder, their psychologist will be able to begin building and developing a personalized treatment plan. There are multiple different treatments that may be recommended. For some teens, consistent psychotherapy is all that will be required to learn to better adjust to society and control impulsive behaviors.

Individuals experiencing personality disorders can also be issued medications, including antidepressants, mood stabilizers, antipsychotics, and anti-anxiety medications. The medications that are considered appropriate will depend on the specific disorder your teen is experiencing. In other cases, especially those connected to self-harm or self-destructive behavior, seeking hospitalization or a residential treatment center for youth (RTC) may be needed.

Conclusion – Personality Disorders in Adolescents

Personality disorders are fairly common and currently, using the criteria established in DSM-5, there are many different personality disorders that could be affecting your teen. When left untreated, these disorders can result in many different complications. If you believe your teen is currently suffering from a personality disorder, be sure to help them receive a proper diagnosis and connect them with the crucial help they need.