Mental health articles

OF mental health care and mentally ill

what is personality disorder

Definitions of personality disorder are complex. Mental health professionals have a variety of views and attitudes towards personality disorder, and there are many myths and misunderstandings surrounding the issue. However, people with personality disorder make up a large portion of the population who use mental health services. It is estimated that between 36% and 67% of those using mental health services have personality disorder (National Institute for Mental Health in England 2003).
Many service users with personality disorder are dissatisfied with the services available and much has been written about the negative impact of the label ‘personality disorder’. Castillo refers to personality disorder as ‘a dangerous diagnosis’ and goes on to report the negative impact of such a diagnosis together with the negative attitude of some mental health professionals towards those with the diagnosis.
It is generally accepted among mental health professionals that the therapeutic relationship is fundamental to successfully working with people who have mental health problems. Two crucial aspects of the therapeutic relationship developed in the 1930s by Karl Rogers are ‘a non-judgemental attitude’ and ‘unconditional positive regard’, which refers to a positive and respectful attitude towards the patient being an essential element of any successful therapeutic relationship.

These principles become simultaneously more difficult to sustain yet even more crucial when dealing with some of the challenging behaviour commonly seen in people with a personality disorder. Many of the negative attitudes seen among mental health professionals are the result of a lack of understanding of personality
disorder. The predominance of the medical model and the long-held view that these disorders are untreatable further add to the stigma and negative impact of these disorders.
It is hoped that developing a deeper understanding of these behaviours will assist both those working with these disorders and those suffering from the disorders to be more understanding and to maintain a more positive attitude. Having an understanding
of and correctly interpreting of behaviours seen in personality disorder are essential for a successful treatment plan. Many of the most successful treatments for personality disorder contain a large element of education, self-awareness and social skills training .

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