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How do we know when there is a part of our personality that just makes us who we are and a part of our personality which is a symptom of mental illness? People who are “worry warts”, for example, may be excessive worriers which is part of their personality. What would indicate to someone who is generally nervous that they actually have general anxiety disorder? Too often, we mislabel personality traits with personality disorders. Someone who is perhaps, a little obsessive about cleanliness in the home, could be called obsessive compulsive, but they do not identify with the criterium of the personality disorder. Someone who does not do well with social interactions might be called antisocial, but would never be diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder; they may, however, have social anxiety disorder.

The line is a diagnosis which can only be made by a professional like a psychiatrist. How that line comes to be drawn, that is, when personality traits become personality disorders, is a fascinating subject.

First, it is important to understand what personality disorders there are. There are ten personality disorders, categorized into three clusters:

Cluster A: Described as “odd, bizarre, eccentric”. Includes paranoid personality disorder, schizoid personality disorder, and schizotypal personality disorder.Cluster B: Described as “dramatic, erratic”. Includes antisocial personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, histrionic personality disorder, narcissistic personality disorder.Cluster C: Described as “anxious, fearful”. Includes avoidant personality disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder.

Personality traits are meant to be malleable, changeable, and flexible. Our excessive worrier, for example, can take steps to reduce her nerves. She can turn to meditation, mindfulness, organize her thoughts, and overtime experience change. What she won’t experience is her life suffering as a result of her worrying. She is able to maintain a job, have healthy relationships, and enjoy her life, even with the occasional bout of worrying. If her worrying were to have a negative effect on her life, causing her to not perform in her job, experience toxic or unstable relationships, and feel like she cannot enjoy her life due to her worrying, she is experiencing distress. Once a personality trait causes distress, that is a good sign there is a personality disorder present.

Personality disorders can develop as a response to trauma. The Guest House Ocala offers residential treatment programming for trauma, addictions, and related mental health issues. Everyone has a story. Here, your story is shared and healed. Call us today for information: 1-855-483-7800