Personality Disorders Therapy and Counseling Treatment Options

For those who may be struggling with a personality disorder, finding the right mental health treatment can be an overwhelming and daunting task. There are a variety of treatment options available which will be detailed on this page.

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What Is a Personality Disorder?

Multiple Personality Man image with multiple exposures, expressions

Personality disorders are characterized by unhealthy thought and behavior patterns that can cause distress and problems with basic functioning. Someone with a personality disorder has thoughts, behaviors, or feelings that deviate from cultural and social expectations.

Personality disorders typically begin by late adolescence or early adulthood and can be long-lasting without proper treatment. Those with a personality disorder have a challenging time in their daily life because their behavior and inner experiences differ significantly from what is expected by others. These differences can typically affect someone with a personality disorder in the following ways:

How they think about themselves or others
How they control their behavior
How they respond emotionally
How they relate to others

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, an estimated 9% of U.S. adults have at least one personality disorder, with about 1.4% having borderline personality disorder specifically. Borderline personality disorder treatment is the most common treatment that people seek for personality disorders.

10 Types of Personality Disorders

Correctly diagnosing a personality disorder requires a mental health professional to become familiarized with an individual’s long-term symptom history and other factors. People under 18 years old cannot typically be diagnosed with a personality disorder because personalities still develop through the teenage years. Some individuals may also have more than one personality disorder or mixed symptoms. The types of personality disorders include:

Cluster A (Suspicious) Personality Disorders

Suspicious personality disorders typically involve unusual and eccentric behaviors or thinking. These disorders include:

  • Schizoid personality disorder – Someone with this disorder is typically disconnected from social relationships and will choose to spend time alone. They seem not to be concerned with receiving criticism or praise from others.
  • Paranoid personality disorder – People with this disorder are suspicious of others and will typically assume people are there to be mean or malicious to them. They do not become close to others or confide in anyone.
  • Schizotypal personality disorder – Someone with this disorder might be highly uncomfortable in close relationships, have eccentric behavior, and distorted thinking. They might also have abnormal speech or extreme social anxiety. 

Cluster B (Emotional and Impulsive) Personality Disorders

Emotional and impulsive personality disorders typically involve erratic and dramatic behaviors. People with these conditions display unstable and intense emotions, as well as impulsive behaviors. These disorders include:

  • Antisocial personality disorder – Someone with this disorder might disregard or violate other people’s rights. They might also continually lie to others, behave impulsively, and not conform to social norms.
  • Narcissistic personality disorder – Someone with this disorder may desire admiration and display a lack of empathy for others. They might also have an inflated sense of self-importance, take advantage of others, or have a sense of entitlement. 
  • Histrionic personality disorder – Someone with this disorder might tend to be excessively emotional and seek out attention. They may also feel uncomfortable when attention shifts from them or use their physical appearance to draw attention to themselves.
  • Borderline personality disorder (BPD) – Someone with this disorder may have low self-worth, deep emotions, impulsive behavior, and unstable relationships. They might display anger at inappropriate times, have repeated suicide attempts, persistent feelings of emptiness, or take drastic measures to avoid feeling abandoned. 

Cluster C (Anxious) Personality Disorders

Anxious personality disorders typically involve severe fear or anxiety. These disorders include:

  • Avoidant personality disorder – Someone with this disorder can be overly sensitive to criticism, have feelings of unworthiness, and be excessively shy. They might also be unwilling to associate with others, see themselves as socially awkward, and be highly concerned with feeling rejected or criticized.
  • Dependent personality disorder – Someone with this disorder might be submissive and exhibit clingy behavior or the need for someone else to care for them. They may have trouble making routine decisions without assurance from others and feel helpless or uneasy when alone because they feel unable to care for themselves or make decisions on their own properly. 
  • Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder – Someone with this disorder can be preoccupied with control, perfection, and order. They may be intensely focused on schedules, tend to work excessively with a desire for maximizing productivity, and not make time for recreational time or relationships. 

Symptoms of Personality Disorder

Each personality disorder type has unique symptoms or signs. It is essential first to determine whether an individual has the condition. Once someone realizes they have a personality disorder, it is easier to seek out and follow treatment to see improvement.

As a general rule of thumb, most personality disorders typically involve issues with the following:

  • Relationships – People with personality disorders tend to be unable to form stable and close relationships with others because of their disordered beliefs and behaviors. They might be emotionally detached, overly in need of attention, or lack empathy and respect for others. 
  • Identity and a sense of self – People with personality disorders typically lack a stable or realistic image of themselves. How they view themselves can change depending on their situation or who they are with. As a result, their self-esteem can be unnaturally low or high. 

Lack of self-awareness – People with personality disorders often have no insight or awareness of how their problematic thoughts and behaviors affect their relationships with others.

Causes of Personality Disorder

Child hiding - fear, covering ears

Scientists are still researching to determine the causes of personality disorder, as it is one of the least understood mental health conditions. However, scientists do believe that the following factors can contribute to whether someone develops a personality disorder:

  • Genetic factors – Scientists have found a malfunctioning gene that may potentially be a mark for obsessive-compulsive personality disorder. They are also exploring genetic connections to other traits associated with personality disorders, such as anxiety, fear, and aggression.
  • Childhood trauma – There might be a link between childhood trauma and personality disorders developing. For example, people with borderline personality disorder are known to have high rates of childhood sexual trauma.
  • Verbal abuse – People who have experienced extreme verbal abuse as a child are three times as likely to have personality disorders such as borderline personality disorder, narcissistic personality disorder, obsessive-compulsive personality disorder, or paranoid personality disorder in adulthood.
  • Brain changes – There has been an identification of slight brain differences within people that have certain personality disorders. Studies on paranoid personality disorder have found that there is altered amygdala functioning, which is the part of your brain involved with processing threats and fearful stimuli.

Personality Disorders Treatment

Child hiding behind curtain

Personality disorders can be challenging to treat because people who have personality disorders don’t always believe they have problematic behavior. As a result, they often do not seek treatment. There are a few different treatments that can be successful in managing personality disorders, including:


Psychotherapy (talk therapy) involves working with a mental health professional who can provide guidance, education, and support to help manage personality disorders. This type of therapy uses techniques to identify and change problem behaviors, thoughts, and emotions. Psychotherapy is typically the most recommended borderline personality disorder treatment.

The main goals of psychotherapy in treating personality disorders include the following:

  • Reducing distress
  • Helping the person understand that their problems are internal and not caused by others
  • Treating unhealthy behavior
  • Modifying personality traits to ease difficulties experienced


While no medications are used to treat personality disorders specifically, there are some cases when certain medications prove to help reduce personality disorder symptoms. Medications such as antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications, or mood-stabilizing medications might help treat some symptoms seen in those with personality disorders. 

Those experiencing severe or long-term symptoms typically require a team consisting of a psychologist, social worker, family members, psychiatrist, and primary care doctor to determine the best treatment plan.

Self-care and coping strategies

While actively participating in a treatment plan, some people with personality disorders might find the addition of self-care and coping strategies helpful. Some of these strategies include:

  • Become more physically active – Exercise can help in managing symptoms such as stress, anxiety, and depression.
  • Learn more about personality disorders – Gaining more knowledge about your condition can empower and motivate you to get the help you need.
  • Avoid alcohol and drugs – Substances such as drugs or alcohol can cause symptoms to worsen or negatively interact with medications.
  • Find a support group – It can be helpful to speak with others who also have personality disorders.
  • Journal – Writing in a journal to express emotions and track how you feel daily can be helpful in pinpointing symptoms.
  • Socialize – Staying connected with family and friends is essential to overall mental wellness.
  • Use relaxation and stress management techniques – Incorporating yoga, meditation, and walks outside can help manage symptoms. 

Personality Disorder Treatment & Counseling Options in Arizona

There are many options for personality disorders treatment in Phoenix and Mesa at Mental Health Center of America. Our therapists use evidence-based treatment options for personality disorders to help you or your loved one create a plan to improve personality disorder symptoms and adjust problematic behaviors. Treatment options offered include:

  • Psychodynamic Therapy
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • Relational Therapy
  • EMDR
  • Dialectical Behavioral Therapy
  • Trauma-Focused Therapy
  • Mindfulness-Based Interventions

Our therapists collaborate with each client to choose a treatment approach based on your individual needs and goals and create a custom treatment plan with you. Treatment options for personality disorders may include individual counseling, medication, and neurofeedback

Personality disorders treatment may also integrate self-care and wellness activities such as cold exposure, heat exposure, mindfulness, and physical activity. Individuals who commit to treatment for their personality disorder learn to manage their symptoms and create healthy thought and behavior patterns.

Find Counseling for Personality Disorders Treatment in Phoenix & Mesa, Arizona

Symptoms from personality disorders can cause considerable distress and issues with everyday functions if left untreated. At Mental Health Center of America, we provide specialized personality disorders treatment shown to improve symptoms and create healthier thoughts, behaviors, and feelings. We are proud to be a top provider of Arizona mental health services and have counselors in Phoenix and Mesa ready to help you improve your personality disorder symptoms today.

If you or your loved one struggle with any symptoms of personality disorders, we encourage you to discuss these concerns with ​a ​mental health professional. Schedule your appointment today to start your healing journey.

Take The First Step

Complete this brief form to schedule your commitment-free assessment at our convenient Phoenix or Mesa locations, or call us at (602) 704-2345, and our helpful staff will assist you.