Mental illnesses are not adjectives, nor are they insults. But people with personality disorders tend to particularly feel the burden of how our semantics stigmatize the mentally ill. People are quick to hurl terms like "schizo," and "narcissist," but there's a knowledge gap when it comes to really understanding the symptoms of personality disorders (PDs).
First off, it's important to know that there is, in fact, a big difference between personality traits and personality disorders. It may be difficult to understand or distinguish someone acting "narcissistic" from someone who lives with Narcissistic Personality Disorder. And yes, some people like to stay at home, but Antisocial Personality Disorder is deeply misunderstood (and doesn't usually include shyness as a symptom).
Dr. Robin Hornstein, Ph.D., Psychologist, Clinical Director and Integrative Nutrition Health Coach, tells Bustle that personality disorders are exceedingly complicated. "As a 35 year veteran psychologist, I can tell you that the use of these 'disorders' and traits has been historically very harmful to some clients as well as helpful to others," she says.
If you feel that you or a loved one has traits that extend beyond personality and move towards the realm of a PD, make sure you're understanding the complexities and receiving proper care. "When you pull apart the disorders you can find racist and misogynistic flavors in a few of them and the history of that is quite clear in the rate of diagnoses in some groups. For instance, more women have been typically diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder," Hornstein says.
But personality disorders are entirely real, and entirely separate from personality traits. "The major difference between personality traits and personality disorder really has to do with the severity, or the disruption to a person's life and/or relationships." Erin Parisi, LMHC, CAP, tells Bustle.
So what really makes disordered thinking stand out? Here are six things that differentiate personality disorders from personality traits, according to experts.