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Personality Disorder In Teens: Causes, Symptoms, Tests, And Treatment

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A personality disorder in teens may cause troubled relationships and issues taking up responsibilities, and they may often feel separated and lonely. A person’s emotions, thoughts, and behavior patterns become rigid and dysfunctional during personality disorders. These changes could cause challenges to deal with various situations and people.

Most personality disorders begin in childhood, and the symptoms may become more apparent during adolescence. Although many teens are aware of the condition, some may not (1) (2).

Read on to know the types, causes, risk factors, diagnosis, and treatment of personality disorders in teens.

What Do Personality Disorders Look Like?

The different personality disorders manifest themselves through different ways and symptoms. However, the following are some similar traits in teens with personality disorders (2) (3):

  • Constant mood swings
  • Difficulty in maintaining relationships
  • Uncertain behavior
  • Need for immediate gratification
  • Impulsive behaviors
  • Problems at school or work
  • Substance abuse issues
  • Self-harm urges to cope with situations

Note: Some of these behavioral patterns commonly occur during adolescence due to hormonal changes. Therefore, not all such signs should be construed as personality disorders.

What Are The Types of Teenage Personality Disorders?

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders categorizes teenage personality disorders into three clusters based on their symptoms and characteristics (1) (2) (4).

Cluster A – Eccentric personality disorders

Teenagers with eccentric personality disorders have unusual behaviors, and the disorders are further divided into three types:

1. Paranoid personality disorder
  • Difficulty in trusting people
  • Believes that people take advantage of them
  • Difficulty in sharing feelings with others
  • Outsiders are mistrusted and looked at suspiciously
  • Everyday situations are frightening or threatening
2. Schizoid personality disorder
  • Detachment from social relationships
  • Failure to express strong emotions
  • Relationships are viewed as a source of problems
  • Disinterested in life
  • Limited interest in close relationships
3. Schizotypal personality disorder
  • Unusual behaviors
  • Use of unusual words or phrases
  • Belief in their ability to read minds
  • Often superstitious
  • Anxious in social situations

Cluster B – Dramatic personality disorders

Teenagers with dramatic personality disorders have unstable emotions and dramatic behaviors. These disorders are further divided into four types:

1. Antisocial personality disorder
  • Irresponsible, dangerous, and aggressive behaviors
  • Non-abidance to societal rules
  • Unpleasantness toward others
  • Often self-serving
  • Guiltless after making mistakes
  • Gets into fights easily
  • Believes in attaining success by any means
2. Borderline personality disorder
  • Anger outbursts
  • Intense mood swings
  • Impulsiveness followed by regret
  • Self-harming behaviors
  • Tendency to fight
  • Unstable relationships
  • Inability to maintain long-term relationships
  • Poor self-image
3. Histrionic personality disorder
  • Constant attention-seeking behavior
  • Craving to be the center of attention and entertain people
  • Dramatic, childish, or emotional
  • Needy for external approval
  • Easily influenced
4. Narcissistic personality disorder
  • Inflated sense of superiority
  • Low self-esteem, resulting in a need for attention to recognize their worth
  • Troubled when others don’t pay attention to them
  • Self-serving and self-centered
  • Takes advantage of people

Cluster C – Anxious personality disorders

Teenagers with anxious personality disorders experience fear and anxiety. These personality disorders are further divided into three types:

1. Avoidant personality disorder
  • Avoidance of social contact for fear of judgment or embarrassment
  • Sensitive to and expects criticism from others
  • Fear of being shamed or rejected
  • Inferiority complex
  • Refrains from trying new activities for fear of embarrassment
2. Dependent personality disorder
  • Helpless, dependent, and needy
  • Unable to independently make decisions
  • Allows others to control their life and make decisions
  • Need for constant reassurance
  • Accepts people’s wrong behaviors for fear of losing them
  • Low self-confidence
  • Lack of belief in their capabilities
3. Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder
  • Tries to keep everything under control
  • Sets unrealistic standards for themselves
  • Worries about being perfect and fearing mistakes
  • Inability to finish tasks due to the fear of making mistakes

What Are The Causes And Risk Factors For Teenage Personality Disorders?

The actual cause of personality disorders is unknown. Research shows that they are not congenital but acquired by genetic and environmental factors (negative life experiences) over time. Some risk factors that may cause teenage personality disorders are as follows (4) (5) (6):

  • They may be linked with a family history of personality disorders and mental illness. For example, teenagers with an obsessive-compulsive disorder may have family members with depression or anxiety issues.
  • They may arise as a coping mechanism for difficult life situations or experiences. For example, teenagers who faced childhood abuse or trauma may develop a borderline personality disorder.
  • Lack of positive parenting or caregiving during childhood
  • Teenagers who have been diagnosed with behavioral disorders during childhood
  • Changes in brain structure and chemistry
  • They are three times more likely in children who have been verbally abused (screamed at or threatened) by their parents (7).
  • Oversensitivity to stimuli, such as light, noise, and texture, may make teenagers shy, anxious, or timid (7).
  • They may have comorbidities like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

How Are Personality Disorders In Teens Diagnosed?

First, the healthcare providers assess the teenager’s symptoms and differentiate between personality disorders and personality styles. For example, shyness in children does not necessarily indicate a disorder.

  • The healthcare provider discusses the teen’s family background, relationships, feelings, school, medical history, and other obvious problems.
  • They also perform physical examinations and tests such as X-rays and blood tests to rule out physical illnesses.
  • If there are no physical illnesses, they refer the teen to a psychiatrist or psychologist specially trained in mental illnesses and personality disorders (4) (5).

How Are Teenage Personality Disorders Treated?

The treatment depends on the type of disorder the teenager has. The most common and effective treatment is psychotherapy, where the doctor discusses the teen’s thoughts, emotions, and behavior, allowing them to understand their responsibilities and develop a positive behavior.

Some of the common psychotherapies are (8)

  • Psychodynamic therapy (dealing with the situation by talking about the issue)
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (changing the behavioral and thought patterns)
  • Dialectical behavior therapy (providing new skills to manage emotions and relationships better)
  • Group therapy (working in a group of ten to 15 individuals)
  • Psychoeducation (educating about the condition and ways to deal with it)

No specific medications are prescribed to treat personality disorders; however, the symptoms may be controlled with antidepressants, mood stabilizers, and anti-anxiety medicines.

How To Cope With Teen Personality Disorders?

Teens with personality disorders can try the following strategies to deal with their condition better (8):

  • Maintaining a journal to express their emotions
  • Understanding their condition
  • Being physically active to reduce depression and anxiety
  • Avoiding drugs and alcohol
  • Joining personality disorder support groups
  • Adopting stress management techniques, such as yoga and meditation
  • Being in touch with friends and family

Personality disorders can occur in teenagers for several reasons but can be managed and treated with the love and support of family and friends. Being with their loved ones and feeling safe reduces stress and anxiety, thus helping them cope with their condition better. Seek professional help because healthcare providers are trained to deal with such conditions and help teenagers lead happy and fulfilling lives.

References:

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Pragya Bhargavi

Pragya Bhargavi has been in the field of content research, writing and editing for over five years. Her passion for academics and science has enabled her to write creative as well as research-based articles. She has completed her Masters in Microbiology and obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Education (B.Ed). As a writer at MomJunction, Pragya aims to bring about a... more