Dynamic Psychotherapy

Dynamic Psychotherapy is a Melbourne Psychology Practice with an ISTDP focus

Personality Disorders

Understanding Personality Disorders: An Overview

Personality Disorders ~ Dynamic Psychotherapy Melbourne

What Are Personality Disorders?

Personality disorders are complex conditions that affect how individuals think, feel, and interact with others. They are characterised by enduring patterns of behaviour and inner experience that deviate significantly from the expectations of a person’s culture.

Persons living with personality disorders may find it challenging to perceive and relate to situations and people. This can lead to considerable difficulties in social interactions and at work.

Recognising and addressing these disorders is crucial for improving quality of life and relationships. Despite these challenges, understanding and treating personality disorders can lead to improved relationships and overall well-being. 

Defining Personality Disorders

A personality disorder is characterised by an enduring pattern of inner experience and behaviour that is markedly different from the expectations of an individual’s culture.

This pattern is inflexible and pervasive across a broad range of personal and social situations, leading to significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning. These patterns typically begin in adolescence or early adulthood.

The Impact on Life

Individuals with personality disorders often experience significant challenges in how they think about themselves and others, leading to problems in social interactions, at work, and in other areas of life.

Their way of thinking and behaving can be so rigid that it leads to dysfunction and distress, both for the individual and for those around them.

Personality Disorder Therapists at Dynamic Psychotherapy

At Dynamic Psychotherapy, several of our therapists have a keen interest in working with Personality Disorders. They bring empathy, extensive knowledge, and innovative approaches to support individuals facing these challenges.

Committed to compassionate care, they offer personalised treatment in a safe and supportive environment, utilising evidence-based methods to help clients navigate their journey towards recovery and self-discovery.

Click on a Personality Disorder Therapist to View More

CBT Therapist Lauren Ross, working from Carlton, Melbourne

Lauren Ross

Lauren is a dedicated clinical psychologist who works with Personality Disorders. In her practice, Lauren fosters a space where clients can deeply explore their identities and challenges. She effectively combines Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Psychodynamic principles, and Mindfulness techniques, crafting a collaborative and comprehensive journey towards healing tailored specifically for those navigating the complexities of Personality Disorders.


ISTDP, CBT , ACT, Interpersonal Therapy & Mindfulness


MPsych (Clinical), MAPS, BA and LLB

Counsellor David Temme

David Temme

David is a seasoned therapist with a strong focus on EMDR Therapy. His extensive training and hands-on experience make him an expert in treating a wide range of mental health conditions, including PTSD and anxiety disorders. David’s empathetic approach ensures that you feel comfortable and supported throughout your treatment journey.


EMDR Therapy, Schema Therapy, Behavioural Therapies, Psychodynamic Therapy & CBT


Social Worker And Psychotherapist

Placeholder image of therapist Susanna Sibillin

Susanna Sibillin

Susanna is passionate about helping individuals reclaim their lives from the grip of mental health conditions. Her expertise in EMDR Therapy is complemented by her warm and nurturing demeanour, creating a safe space for you to explore and heal. Susanna specialises in treating conditions like depression and phobias, employing EMDR techniques that offer lasting relief.


EMDR Therapy, Schema Therapy, DBT, CBT & ACT


MPsych(Clin), MSW, PGDip

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Submit an intake form below or keep reading for a detailed overview about personality disorders.

Table of Contents

The Significance of Awareness

Awareness and understanding of personality disorders are fundamental. It helps in recognising the signs early and seeking appropriate care. Treatment can significantly improve the quality of life for those affected.

As mental health professionals it is our responsibility to provide care and clear, and helpful information on recognising, managing, and living with personality disorders.

Personality Disorder Clusters

Personality disorders are categorised into three clusters based on descriptive similarities:

  • Cluster A (Odd or Eccentric Disorders): Includes Paranoid, Schizoid, and Schizotypal Personality Disorders.
  • Cluster B (Dramatic, Emotional, or Erratic Disorders): Includes Antisocial, Borderline, Histrionic, and Narcissistic Personality Disorders.
  • Cluster C (Anxious or Fearful Disorders): Includes Avoidant, Dependent, and Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorders.

Each disorder within these clusters has specific criteria and symptoms defined by diagnostic guidelines, such as the DSM-5 TR(Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition) and the ICD-11 (International Classification of Diseases, 11th Revision).

Cluster A: Odd or Eccentric

Cluster A personality disorders are marked by odd or eccentric thinking or behaviour. They include:

  • Paranoid Personality Disorder: Individuals often suspect others are exploiting or deceiving them without sufficient basis.
  • Schizoid Personality Disorder: Characterized by a lack of interest in social relationships, preferring solitude.
  • Schizotypal Personality Disorder: People exhibit peculiar dress, thinking, beliefs, speech, or behaviour.

Cluster B: Dramatic, Emotional, or Erratic

Cluster B disorders are characterised by dramatic, overly emotional, or unpredictable thinking or behaviour:

  • Antisocial Personality Disorder: There’s a disregard for and violation of the rights of others.
  • Borderline Personality Disorder: Features instability in personal relationships, self-image, and affects, along with impulsivity.
  • Histrionic Personality Disorder: Individuals exhibit excessive emotionality and attention-seeking behaviour.
  • Narcissistic Personality Disorder: A pattern of grandiosity, need for admiration, and a lack of empathy.

Cluster C: Anxious or Fearful

Cluster C personality disorders involve anxious or fearful thinking or behaviour:

  • Avoidant Personality Disorder: Shows extreme sensitivity to rejection, leading to social inhibition, feelings of inadequacy, and a reluctance to engage in social interactions.
  • Dependent Personality Disorder: A pervasive psychological dependence on other people.
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD): A preoccupation with orderliness, perfectionism, and control.

Diagnosis and Recognition

The diagnosis of personality disorders involves a comprehensive assessment by a mental health professional, taking into account the individual’s long-term patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaviour that deviate from the cultural norm. These patterns are inflexible, and pervasive, and lead to distress or impairment.

Evidence-Based Treatment Approaches

Treatment varies by disorder but may include psychotherapy, medication, and lifestyle adjustments. Psychotherapy, such as Schema Therapy, dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT), or cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) is often the primary treatment. In some cases, medications can help manage symptoms, although they do not cure the disorder.

Personality Disorders

Causes and Risk Factors of Personality Disorders

The development of personality disorders is complex, with no single cause. It involves a combination of genetic, environmental, and social factors. Understanding these can help in managing and supporting individuals with these conditions.

Genetic Factors

Research suggests a strong genetic component to personality disorders. A family history of mental health conditions increases the risk.

For instance, traits associated with disorders like Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) or Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD) can be more prevalent in individuals who have family members with similar conditions.

This indicates that genetic predispositions play a significant role in the development of these disorders.

Environmental Influences

Environmental factors, particularly during childhood, significantly impact personality development. Experiences of neglect, abuse (physical, emotional, or sexual), or unstable family environments contribute to the onset of personality disorders.

Such traumatic experiences can alter one’s perception of self and others, leading to patterns of behaviour characteristic of personality disorders.

Social Factors

Social factors, including relationships with peers and societal norms, also influence the development of personality disorders.

Bullying, social isolation, or pressure to conform to societal expectations can exacerbate the risk. Cultural expectations and the stigma associated with mental health can deter individuals from seeking help, further complicating their condition.

Brain Structure and Function

Advancements in neuroscience have identified differences in the brain structure and functioning of individuals with personality disorders.

For example, changes in areas responsible for emotion regulation, impulse control, and empathy can contribute to the symptoms observed in these disorders.

These neurobiological findings offer insights into why certain behaviours and thought patterns are prevalent in individuals with personality disorders.

Risk Factors

Several risk factors increase the likelihood of developing a personality disorder, including:

  • Childhood trauma: Early life traumas are significantly associated with the development of personality disorders.
  • Family history: A family history of mental health conditions or personality disorders increases risk.
  • Social and cultural factors: Cultural norms and societal pressures can influence the manifestation of personality disorders.
  • Neurobiological factors: Differences in brain chemistry and structure may predispose individuals to personality disorders.

Diagnosis and Challenges of Personality Disorders

Diagnosing personality disorders presents unique challenges due to their complex nature. Understanding these conditions requires a detailed assessment by experienced mental health professionals, following established diagnostic criteria.

The Diagnostic Process

The process of diagnosing a personality disorder typically involves a comprehensive evaluation that includes clinical interviews, detailed medical histories, and often, psychological testing.

Mental health professionals use diagnostic criteria from authoritative sources like the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition) or the ICD-11 (International Classification of Diseases, 11th Revision).

These criteria help ensure that diagnoses are consistent and based on recognised symptoms and patterns of behaviour.

Challenges in Diagnosis

One of the primary challenges in diagnosing personality disorders is the subjective nature of the assessment.

Symptoms can vary widely among individuals and may overlap with other mental health conditions, making it difficult to pinpoint a specific disorder.

Additionally, individuals with personality disorders often have a limited awareness of their condition, which can affect their willingness to seek help and accurately report their symptoms.

  • Overlap with Other Conditions: Symptoms of personality disorders can mimic or coexist with other mental health conditions, such as depression, anxiety disorders, or substance use disorders, complicating the diagnosis.
  • Cultural and Social Considerations: Cultural and social factors can influence the presentation of personality disorders, necessitating a culturally sensitive approach to diagnosis.
  • Stigma and Misunderstanding: Stigma and misconceptions about personality disorders can hinder individuals from seeking diagnosis and treatment. It’s crucial for mental health professionals to approach these disorders with empathy and without judgment.

Importance of Accurate Diagnosis

Accurate diagnosis is crucial for developing an effective treatment plan. It helps in identifying the specific type of personality disorder and understanding the individual’s unique challenges and needs.

Tailored interventions can then be implemented, including psychotherapy, medication, and support strategies, to help individuals manage their symptoms and improve their quality of life.

Importance of Early Recognition

Early recognition and diagnosis are key to managing personality disorders effectively. Treatment options, including psychotherapy and medication, can significantly improve outcomes. However, the stigma surrounding mental health conditions often prevents individuals from seeking the help they need.

Personality Disorders

Treatment Options for Personality Disorders

Treating personality disorders effectively requires a comprehensive and personalised approach. While these conditions can be challenging, several treatment options have been shown to offer significant benefits.

Psychotherapy: The Core Treatment

Psychotherapy, or talk therapy, is the cornerstone of treatment for personality disorders. It involves regular sessions with a trained therapist and can significantly improve symptoms and quality of life.

  • Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) focuses on changing harmful thought patterns, behaviours, and emotional responses associated with personality disorders. It helps individuals develop healthier thinking and behaviour patterns.
  • Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) is especially effective for Borderline Personality Disorder, teaching coping skills to manage emotions, reduce self-harming behaviours, and improve relationships.
  • Schema Therapy is a longer-term and integrative psychotherapy combining Psychodynamic, where There is a considerable focus on the therapy relationship as an agent of change. Cognitive Behavioural and attachment elements aim to change deep-rooted patterns or themes (schemas) in thinking, feeling, and behaving that are dysfunctional.
  • Psychodynamic Psychotherapy explores unconscious patterns and conflicts from the past influencing current thoughts and behaviours.

Medication Management

While there are no medications specifically approved for the treatment of personality disorders, certain medications can help manage symptoms or co-occurring conditions, such as:

  • Antidepressants may be used to alleviate symptoms of depression or anxiety.
  • Mood Stabilisers can help control mood swings or reduce impulsivity.
  • Antipsychotic Medications might be prescribed for symptoms such as delusions or severe distortions in thinking.

Challenges in Treatment

  • Adherence to treatment can be difficult, as individuals with personality disorders may have fluctuating motivation or scepticism about treatment benefits.
  • Finding the right therapeutic approach and therapist can take time and may require adjustments to the treatment plan.

Living with Personality Disorders

Living with a personality disorder presents unique challenges and opportunities for growth. It requires ongoing management, support, and self-awareness. Individuals can lead fulfilling lives with the right strategies and resources.

Understanding Your Condition

Gaining a deep understanding of your personality disorder is the first step toward managing it effectively.

Knowledge about the specific traits, behaviours, and thought patterns associated with your disorder can empower you to recognise triggers and signs of distress.

Educating yourself about your condition promotes a proactive approach to health and well-being.

Building a Support System

A robust support system is crucial for individuals living with personality disorders. This can include family, friends, healthcare providers, and support groups.

These networks provide emotional support, practical assistance, and a sense of belonging. Sharing experiences with others who understand can significantly reduce feelings of isolation and stigma.

  • Professional Support: Regular sessions with a therapist or counsellor are essential. They offer a safe space to explore feelings, develop coping strategies, and work through personal challenges.
  • Peer Support: Support groups, whether in-person or online, can offer invaluable understanding and camaraderie. Sharing stories and strategies with peers can provide comfort and practical advice.

Developing Coping Strategies

Effective coping strategies are vital for managing the symptoms of personality disorders and improving quality of life.

  • Mindfulness and Stress Reduction: Practices such as mindfulness, meditation, and yoga can help manage stress, anxiety, and emotional dysregulation.
  • ● Healthy Lifestyle Choices: Regular physical activity, a nutritious diet, adequate sleep, and avoiding substances like alcohol and drugs contribute to overall well-being.
  • ● Skill Development: Learning and practicing interpersonal skills can improve relationships and social interactions, which are often challenging for those with personality disorders.

Navigating Challenges

Living with a personality disorder means navigating ongoing challenges. Fluctuations in mood, difficulties in relationships, and struggles with self-image are common.

Being patient with yourself, seeking regular treatment, and focusing on progress rather than perfection is key.

  • Adaptability: Understanding that the journey is not linear and being open to adjusting coping strategies and treatment plans as needed.
  • Self-Compassion: Cultivating a kind and compassionate attitude towards yourself is crucial. Recognize your strengths and acknowledge your efforts to manage the disorder.

Seeking Help for Personality Disorders

Recognising the need for help and taking the first steps to seek it is critical in managing personality disorders. It’s a sign of strength and the beginning of a journey toward a healthier, more fulfilling life.

Recognising When to Seek Help

It’s time to seek help if you or someone you know experiences persistent patterns of thoughts, feelings, or behaviours that are significantly distressing or disruptive to daily life.

These may include intense emotional reactions, difficulties in relationships, or behaviours that seem out of control. Acknowledging these signs and accepting the need for professional assistance are crucial initial steps.

Finding the Right Professional

Finding a healthcare professional who specialises in mental health and has experience with personality disorders is essential. This can include psychiatrists, psychologists, or mental health social workers. They can provide a comprehensive assessment, accurate diagnosis, and a tailored treatment plan.

  • Consult Your Primary Care Provider: Often, the first step is to speak with your primary care doctor, who can provide an initial evaluation and referrals to mental health specialists.
  • Mental Health Organisations: Organisations like the Australian Psychological Society or the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists offer directories to find qualified professionals.

Preparing for Your Appointment

Being well-prepared for your appointment can help you make the most of your time with the mental health professional. Consider writing down:

  • A list of symptoms and how they impact your life.
  • Key personal information, including major stresses or recent life changes.
  • Questions you have about diagnosis and treatment options.

Treatment and Support Options

During your appointment, discuss the various treatment and support options available. These may include psychotherapy, medication, or lifestyle changes. It’s also beneficial to ask about support groups or community resources.

  • Psychotherapy: Often the primary treatment for personality disorders, involving individual or group therapy sessions.
  • Medication: While there’s no specific medication for personality disorders, certain medications can help manage symptoms or related issues like anxiety or depression.
  • Support Groups: Peer support can offer understanding, shared experiences, and coping strategies.
Personality Disorders


Understanding, managing, and living with personality disorders is a journey that requires patience, knowledge, and support. These complex conditions can pose significant challenges, but they also offer the opportunity for profound personal growth and improvement in quality of life.

With the right approach, individuals with personality disorders can navigate their symptoms more effectively and build meaningful, fulfilling lives.

Embracing Support and Treatment

Seeking and embracing support from healthcare professionals, loved ones, and peer groups can significantly enhance the management of personality disorders.

Effective treatment plans, including psychotherapy and medication, tailored to the individual’s needs, are pivotal in addressing these conditions. Psychotherapy, in particular, offers valuable tools for understanding and changing thought patterns and behaviours.

A Path Forward

Living with a personality disorder is an ongoing process of learning and adaptation. It involves developing coping strategies, understanding personal triggers, and building healthy relationships.

Despite the challenges, with commitment to treatment and support, individuals can achieve stability and well-being.

Final Thoughts

Personality disorders, with their intricacies and challenges, are an integral part of the mental health landscape that requires our attention and understanding.

By approaching these conditions with empathy, expertise, and a commitment to support, we can help those affected lead richer, more rewarding lives.

Remember, the journey towards mental health is not one to be walked alone; support, understanding, and care are keys to navigating this path successfully.

This conclusion draws on authoritative insights and experience in mental health to offer hope and guidance for individuals with personality disorders and their support networks.

It emphasises the importance of treatment, the value of awareness, and the power of a supportive community in overcoming the challenges posed by these conditions.

FAQs About Personality Disorders

What Are Personality Disorders?

How Many Types of Personality Disorders Are There?

Can Personality Disorders Be Treated?

Are Personality Disorders Genetic?

Can Someone with a Personality Disorder Have a Normal Life?

Free Resources for Personality Disorders

If you’re looking to delve deeper into the world of personality disorders, we’ve curated a list of free resources that offer valuable insights, tools, and training materials.

University of Wollongong Australia

The Project Air at the University of Wollongong provides a series of fact sheets on Personality Disorders. These resources offer insights into understanding, managing, and treating Personality Disorders, catering to affected individuals, families, and healthcare providers. The fact sheets simplify complex information, making it accessible to everyone.

The Social Workers’ Toolbox

The Social Workers’ Toolbox presents an informative page dedicated to understanding Personality Disorders. It offers comprehensive insights into the nature, types, and management of Personality Disorders, designed to educate social workers, healthcare professionals, and the general public. This resource aims to enhance awareness and provide practical guidance for supporting individuals with Personality Disorders.

National Institute of Mental Health

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) offers a page with digital shareables on Borderline Personality Disorder. This collection includes informative resources designed to spread awareness and understanding of Borderline Personality Disorder. It features engaging materials suitable for both individuals seeking knowledge and those looking to share information on social media platforms, aiming to educate the public and reduce stigma associated with the disorder.

University of Wollongong Australia

The Project Air also features a collection of videos and stories from individuals with lived experiences of Personality Disorders. This resource offers personal insights and perspectives, highlighting the challenges and successes encountered on their journeys. It serves as an inspiring and educational tool for anyone seeking to understand the real-life impact of Personality Disorders


We Are Not Responsible for websites we link to. Please be aware that we have no control over the content of these websites or resources. The content may change, and we are not responsible for any alterations, or the reliability of the information provided.

Take the Next Step: Request an Appointment

If you or someone you know is navigating the complexities of personality disorders, taking the first step towards getting professional help is pivotal. It’s a move towards understanding, managing, and improving your mental health and overall quality of life.

Seeking assistance from experienced professionals can provide the support, strategies, and insights needed to tackle the challenges posed by personality disorders.

Embrace Support, Embrace Change

Reaching out for help is a sign of strength, not weakness. It’s an acknowledgment of your courage to face challenges head-on and a commitment to improving your well-being.

Professional support can equip you with the necessary tools to navigate your thoughts, emotions, and behaviours more effectively.

How to Request an Appointment

Submitting an appointment request is straightforward and confidential. By filling out the form at Appointment Request Form, you’re taking a significant step towards accessing personalised care and support. This simple act can open the door to a journey of healing, growth, and empowerment.

  • Personalised Care: Our team of experts is committed to providing tailored support that addresses your unique needs.
  • Confidential and Secure: Your privacy and security are our top priorities. Rest assured that your information is handled with the utmost care.
  • Accessible Support: Ease of access to professional help is our goal. Our streamlined process ensures you can quickly connect with the right support.

Request an Appointment

Ready to book an appointment with a Melbourne personality disorder therapist? Use our appointment request form by clicking the button below.

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