There is no single approach to treating personality disorders. If your GP feels you have a complex personality disorder, they may refer you to a community mental health team, or specialist personality disorder service or unit, if there is one locally.
These services are made up of professionals such as psychologists, psychiatrists and therapists who have experience in helping people with personality disorders. Sometimes you can contact these services yourself to get help.
You and your doctor or healthcare team should agree on a treatment plan that works best for you. One-to-one and group psychological treatments or ‘talking therapies’ are often recommended.
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)
CBT helps you understand the links between your thoughts, feelings and behaviour. It can help you to understand how you think about yourself, the world and other people and how that affects how you cope.
Dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT)
DBT can help you see negative behaviours and control them by learning new ways of coping. Unhelpful behaviour might include thinking about suicide, self-harming, drinking alcohol or using drugs.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) says DBT can be helpful if you have borderline personality disorder. Normally, you get 1 to 1 and group therapy appointments, education groups and telephone support. A course of DBT usually takes between 12 and 18 months to complete.
Cognitive analytical therapy (CAT)
CAT helps you to understand problems you have in relationships, and change patterns of unhelpful behaviour. This may be useful if you often switch between liking and disliking people who are close to you.
Mentalisation-based therapy (MBT)
MBT may help if you make assumptions about what other people think or feel. For example, if someone you care about wants to do something by themselves, you might think they don’t care about you, hate you or they will never want to come back. These feelings might make you panic and feel angry.
Mentalising helps you to understand other people’s behaviour and your reaction to it. This will help you to try and take a more balanced view about what may be going on in other people’s minds.
This type of therapy gives you time to talk about how you feel about yourself and other people. This might include what has happened in the past, what’s happening in your life now, and how the past can affect how you are feeling, thinking and behaving now.
You would usually have weekly or fortnightly sessions on a one-to-one basis. This type of therapy can be ongoing.
Therapeutic communities are places you can go to have treatment. They are programmes designed by and for groups of people who are experiencing mental health problems. Community members are able to support each other. Therapeutic communities might live together for weeks or months, or meet up regularly.
Activities can include individual or group therapy, household chores and social activities.
There is no medication to treat personality disorder, but your doctor may give you medication to help with symptoms like anxiety, anger or depression. These can include antidepressants, mood stabiliser or antipsychotics.
Self-help for personality disorders
Taking time to work on your wellbeing can make a big difference in how you’re feeling. Things you could try include:
- Talking to friends and family – Sharing difficult thoughts can often make them seem easier to handle
- Try online peer support – Networks like Clic can help connect you with people with similar experiences
- Mindfulness and relaxation – This can help you to feel calmer and manage negative thoughts
- Eating healthily
- Get enough sleep – This will help to give you the energy to cope with difficult emotions
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Just £10 could help pay for a call to our advice and information line, supporting someone living with mental illness who may be feeling in distress during this time.