Ever known anyone who has conquered a personality disorder?

Like a narcissist who becomes less self-absorbed and more caring, or a sociopath who grows a conscience? Or an obsessive-compulsive who learns to lighten up? Or a paranoid who eventually learns to trust someone and be more carefree?

Are there any Dopers who feel comfortable talking about their own experiences living with a personality disorder? Everyone laughs at the antics of their resident loony-toon, but people are rarely simple enough to be distilled to two-dimensional caricatures. Maybe they’re good people who just don’t how to live without doing harmful things. Maybe they want to be normal, but normal just seems so unattainable that they feel completely hopeless. I’ve never met a person who ever identified themselves as having a personality disorder (though I’ve suspected certain folks of having them). So I don’t know how “off” they are from me or anyone else.

Any inspirational stories out there?

I’ve worked against excessive compulsions since I was in first grade and got Sydenhams Chorea. I was in the group of people that don’t have it clear up. You can change behaviors if you set your mind to it and correct it. It can take years to do each change, and what you do is redirect it as best you can. The urge is less when you don’t reinforce the problem by actually doing the action.

I’ve been recovering from an illness that destroyed me. I decided that when I worked on relearning and my slow recovery, that I would work on being nice and not a bitter person. Working to that goal continues to shape the person you want to be, instead of the person you could easily become and remain. This of course holds true for any person. You become what you allow and reinforce. Maybe I can do this better now, because of all the years previous where I had to work so hard at suppressing and redirecting the Sydenhams Chorea activated problems. One thing the last illness did was raise my threshold at which the Sydenhams Chorea problems are manifest to the public. I’m glad this last illness attacked me in that the burden of the Sydenhams Chorea has lessened. I do think that I will never make it back from a severe illness again, as that part of me is eroded to where I don’t think I can ever draw deeply on it again.

I may be screwed over, but I’m happy with who I am now. It was hard to get here. Actually I’m very proud to have gotten to this point. Yeh for me!

No. And my understand of personality disorders that “recovery” or “conquering” them is vanishingly rare.

The disorders themselves are also extremely rare. Or at least, they are rarely diagnosed and there aren’t many great treatments. People with true personality disorders may not realize that they have a problem, and are less likely to seek help.

Also, if you already know this, forgive me, but there are personality disorders that vary from other, more treatable disorders.

For example, there’s schizophrenia, then there’s the schizoid personality disorder and the schizotypal personality disorder. There’s some overlap in symptoms, but the conditions are not interchangable and as far as I know, there’s no good treatment for schzoid and schizotypal disorders.

Harmonious Discord - I don’t know you or your medical history. But there is Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, and then there’s Obsessive Compulsive Personality disorder. OCD doesn’t always equal a personality disorder, but I don’t want to put words in your mouth and it’s not clear to me which one you had. One thing I do know though…you absolutely cannot be diagnosed with a personality disorder before the age of 18. The DSV-IV does not allow for that. Which kind of makes me think you had/have OCD, rather than obsessive-compulsive personality disorder. But again…don’t know you, not trying to offend.

So, take it with a grain of salt. I’m also post-call right now and have slept four hours with interruptions in the last…30+. I could very well be completely off.

I believe my brother was diagnosed in his early 20’s with Antisocial Personality Disorder, although it might have been Boarderline Personality Disorder, I don’t remember which. All I know is that he was a total asshole growing up.

He’s gotten better at functioning, but he’s not really better inside. He doesn’t get arrested as much because he’s figured out that cramps his style a bit, and he hasn’t, to my knowledge, raped anyone lately. In fact, he’s healed enough that he was able to apologize to me and really really mean it (I think - he had no reason to lie to me, anyhow) and take responsibility for what he did to me and how it affected my life. But more than a few minutes conversation with him and he’ll share with you that he really doesn’t believe anyone at all has any sort of right to life, and he sees no ethical problem with killing anyone for any whim at all. He hasn’t done it, mind you, but he doesn’t have that inner sense of Wrong that most of us would stick “murder” under.

He’s scary smart, and incredibly thick all at the same time; he understands people’s emotions enough to manipulate them masterfully, and he claims that he himself has emotions (namely anger and rage, but he’s also married and claims to feel love for his wife and children), but he has no *empathy *at all. None. He sees everyone else as so far beneath him as to be worthy of nothing but contempt or forbearance.

So, he’s more *functional *than he used to be, but he’s not normal, by any stretch of the imagination.

I don’t usually argue on stuff like this, because I no longer can be sure I just don’t get the point. I concede that sometimes I won’t get it, and just take the word of the poster that there is a difference. You don’t hurt my feelings anyway.

Well…I guess the point was that the question was regarding treatment for personality disorders specifically. OCD can be treated and sometimes effectively, but it’s not a personality disorder. Personality disorders are rarely treated, although like I said, there might be a selection bias.

That was what I was trying to say. Psych classification is often confusing and after working on a psych ward, I have my doubts about a lot of clinicians’ accuracy. It just takes one person to throw the wrong label on, and then it gets passed on and on…

Depends on the personality disorder.

I’ve largely worked with patients with “cluster B” personality disorders (largely borderline, some antisocial, and various measures of histrionic and narcissistic features thrown in). But, I’ve worked with some “cluster A” (paranoid, schizoid) and a smattering of “cluster C” (avoidant, dependent)

There has been a lot of research in managing borderline PD. There is also specific therapy for borderline personality disorder (dialectical behavioral therapy, or “death by therapy” as one of my colleagues has termed it). I have seen patients get better - and one (who did not have severe pathology) actually get to the range of normal. But, it takes a LOT of work, even for mild pathology.

There’s a school of thought that patients with antisocial PD “age out” of their pathology - they’re really bad in their early adult life, but if they live, they mellow out as they get older. I’ve seen that some, but I’ve generally met these patients in jail or in inpatient facilities, so there is selection bias.

I’ve not seen as many with cluster A or C. The ones I recall didn’t really get a great deal better - certainly not to normal.

OCD is classified as an anxiety disorder, not a personality disorder. FWIW.

This Mayo Clinic site indicates up to 15% of the adult population has one or more personality disorders: Personality disorders - Symptoms and causes - Mayo Clinic. So that wouldn’t make them particularly rare. They are probably rarer among adults who are able to hold a job and stay on the right side of the law, though.

I had mild Tourettes when I was a child. I still have one tic but I’ve learned how not to even think about it so it never bothers me. I had OCD when I was about 5. It started getting worse when I was about 10 and it got to the point where I almost couldn’t walk down the road because I’d have to keep crossing the street to touch every telephone pole and every car bumper. I’d do other things too but that was the most disruptive.

One day, when I was 10 or 11, I realized that this was something that was going to end up crippling me for life if I didn’t stop it, so I did. It took a surprisingly short time for me to stop. It was only really hard for a few days, and I learned very quickly that I didn’t die and nothing bad happened if I didn’t cross the street and touch the telephone pole.

As an adult (38) I will occasionally have to fix something that “isn’t right”, like an ornament or a curtain not hanging the “right way”. I don’t know what right is supposed to be, it just feels “not right” if that makes sense.

I manage to hide my lunacy quite well :slight_smile: and unless I told you about my problems, you wouldn’t even know.

Yah it’s great when you have to do a specific stupid set of actions until it is done perfectly or in a certain progression, until after and hour or two it was done or you just collapsed from exhaustion.

"Personality disorder not otherwise specified and avoidant personality disorder were the only personality disorders diagnosed in more than 10% of the patients, and seven personality disorders were diagnosed in less than 5%. "

From “The Prevalence of DSM-IV Personality Disorders in Psychiatric Outpatients” Am J Psychiatry 162:1911-1918, October 2005. Mark Zimmerman, M.D., Louis Rothschild, Ph.D., and Iwona Chelminski, Ph.D.

Again…my understanding of these disorders is that they are underdiagnosed, because a lot of patients simply don’t seek treatment. So, estimates are going to vary. They are not common though.

Something you can find in 3 to 10 patients out of 100 is pretty damned common in my book.

And your original assertion, that personality disorders are “extremely rare” is certainly inaccurate.

“Uncommon” is fibromuscular dysplasia, occurring in 1-2 out of 10,000.

“Rare” is something like 1 to 5 people out of 100,000. Say like Behcet’s syndrome.

How many patients do you see with personality disorders? I’d estimate that 50% of my patient population has one. Of course, my patient base self-selects for bad behavior, but even back when I was in private practice, I’d say at least 5% of my adult patients had a personality disorder.

So Personality disorders are extremely common.

And people can change their behavior if they want to badly enough. I’ve even seen borderlines behave better, when they’re finally convinced that their lives can be a bit less stressful if they work to respond differently to situations.

Unfortunately, only a small minority seem to want to change badly enough.

I’ve known a lot of people who have conquered personality disorders. It’s called growing up. Before you flame me, I want to emphasize that I don’t say that to belittle anyone who has such a disorder. Rather, I find it interesting, scientifically, that most people grow out of what are usually regarded as childish behaviors, but a few don’t. Kids are selfish, they have weird little tics and obsessions, they lie a lot, they hit other kids, they judge risks poorly, etc. That’s why we don’t trust them to go out by themselves or have guns or liquor. But most of them grow out of it. Maybe if more was understood about how kids grow out of these behaviors, that knowledge could be applied to people with personality disorders.

I knew a three-year-old who only ate orange-colored food for about a six-month period. Six months of oranges, orange juice, cheddar cheese, carrots, macaroni and cheese, orange Gatorade, etc. He ate, drank and crapped orange. Then he grew out of it. When it’s a three-year-old, we say, “Funny little kid”. When it’s a thirty-three-year-old, we say, “What a weirdo, I don’t think I want to know this guy.” How does it happen and what makes it stop? Will we ever know? The human personality is damned interesting.

But this is exactly why you don’t diagnose someone with a personality disorder until they’re over 18 - or, realistically, in their mid-20’s. Until the brain has stopped growing and the person is civilized, you don’t really know what you’re going to get.

BUT - neither of the quirks you mention are symptomatic of a personality disorder. Killing pets, raping your sister, setting fires at school and repeated theft after punishment are not “kids being kids”, and are far more likely to be the sort of things which will one day get you labeled with a personality disorder if you don’t knock it off by the time you’re nominally a grown up.

I’ve never been officially diagnosed, but I was probably social phobic when I was a teenager, and there were times when I thought I might’ve had Avoidant Personality Disorder (the extreme, incurable form of shyness). Now that I’m in my 30s, I think I have it mostly beaten. I’m still a little quiet, but it’s more because I’m an introvert who enjoys quiet time, not because I’m afraid to talk to people.

What did the trick was self help, and adopting the mindset that, rather than suffering from a mental illness that needed to be treated, I was simply a bit shy and lacking in social skills and confidence – a problem which could be overcome with some practice and the proper attitude. This is essentially what they teach you in cognitive behavioral therapy, but I’m too hardheaded to seek help when it’s something I can possibly do myself.

Also I’ve grown up a little and gained some life experience and confidence on the way. It’s a cliche, but if I knew at 18 what I know now, I think life would’ve been a lot easier for me.

It takes work, but yes, people can move beyond a personality disorder. DSM-IV-TR acknowledges this, probably in part so that insurance companies don’t exclude PDs from the billable list on the grounds that they’re “untreatable.”

My apologies for the length of this. My mother’s personality disorder has played a major role in my own life.

My mother has a Narcissistic Personality Disorder. She doesn’t know it and even if I tried explaining it to her, she wouldn’t understand.

Everything is about her. She can’t conceive of anything that doesn’t relate to her. This is an example:

She always been concerned about my weight – even when I wasn’t overweight. That’s because she sees me as an extension of her. One day I was visiting at breakfast time and I pored myself a somewhat large bowl of cereal. (Perhaps a cupful.) My mother mother began to berate me for overeating. She said, “You’re just doing that to defy me!” You see, it was all about her. Sadly, I was approximately 50 at the time and she was 80.

I’ve had my own house for almost 23 years. Mother has never set foot in it. She has driven within a mile of it several times, but she won’t come to see it. And she won’t explain why. It isn’t discussed. (She lives approximately 100 miles away.) She’s gone further than that to see her boyfriend.

When I got any kind of attention or praise from my father, my mother would get angry and hostil and critical.

Not only has she wanted to have control over me, but she has wanted me to know that she has control over me.

The most liberating period of my life was when I learned how to keep her from using my inheritance to manipulate me after my father died. At some point she just pushed too far and hurt me too badly and I just emotionally said fuck it and released myself from the need to have anything that had belonged to my ancestors including my mother. I even encouraged her to give it all to my sister and my sister’s decendents.

My step-grandchildren that I saw born did not count as grandchildren. She would say, “They’re not really your grandchildren.” And she refused to meet all but one of them. That one I brought home without asking so that my father could see her.

Mother couldn’t stand to be wrong. She lost her wallet once. My husband figured out where it was. She said it could not be there. (That would have involved her making a mistake.) He went to that place and got her wallet. It made her mad that he found it.

When she was mad at me, she wouldn’t speak to me – even when I was little. That used to terrify me. I would become hysterical because of it.

She micro-managed my life. I was not allowed to pick out a dress on my own until I was seventeen. I washed my hair myself for the first time when I was sixteen.

She continued to use a belt on me and to slap me around until I was out of the house at eighteen. And she used that belt too hard and too long. She knows it and admited it to me later in life.

She was capable of a lot of cruelty – some of it I just can’t talk about.

And she could also be very loving, giving and sweet. That’s what makes for the dilemma. What happens when you love and hate the same person?

Now she is 95. She still has a sense of humor. Her mind is beginning to go. Sometimes she can be quite demented and the meanness in her personality shows itself to everyone. It used to be reserved just for her family and hidden from the public. It is surreal to watch.

I don’t think there was anything she could have done to make herself better. She was emotionally deprived as a child. I don’t think anyone taught her how to love.

While it’s not a personality disorder, with the help of a good REBT therapist I got a solid handle on my post traumatic stress disorder a few years ago and have been living for the most part happily ever since.