Understanding the Relationship Between PTSD and Personality Disorders

PTSD and Some Personality Disorders Can Occur Together

Compared to those without posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), people with PTSD tend to have higher rates of personality disorders, particularly borderline personality disorder (BPD), more severe symptoms, and a higher risk for certain other conditions, such as substance abuse or deliberate self-injury.

What Is a Personality Disorder?

The American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fifth editionĀ (DSM-5), defines "personality disorder" generally as:

"An enduring pattern of inner experience and behavior that deviates markedly from the expectations of the individual's culture, is pervasive and inflexible, has an onset in adolescence or early adulthood, is stable over time, and leads to distress or impairment."

This article reviews some of the research and information on PTSD and its relationship to several important personality disorders.

The Symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder

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Although BPD has received a growing amount of attention in the media, the information provided is often inaccurate. As a result, many people do not clearly understand the symptoms. If you have BPD or know someone who does, having knowledge of which symptoms are and are not part of the diagnosis can help you better understand your, or another person's, experience of having this disorder.

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The Symptoms of Avoidant Personality Disorder

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As the name implies, people with avoidant personality disorder are shy and tend to keep at a distance from other people, particularly in social situations. They may avoid relationships or interpersonal interactions even though they desire them. Avoidant personality disorder shares many features with social anxiety disorder, but the symptoms are much more severe. This article describes the diagnostic criteria for avoidant personality disorder.

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The Symptoms of Antisocial Personality Disorder

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There have been only a few studies of the relationship between PTSD and antisocial personality disorder. However, a couple of studies have found that people with PTSD have higher rates of antisocial personality disorder than people without PTSD. In addition, the symptoms of PTSD and antisocial personality disorder may overlap.

Some of the symptoms of antisocial personality disorder (such as greater impulsiveness) could lead to behaviors or situations (for example, substance abuse) that put a person at greater risk for a traumatic event -- which, in turn, could contribute to the development of PTSD. Learn more about antisocial personality disorder in this article.

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The Consequences of Having Borderline Personality Disorder and PTSD

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Having BPD or PTSD is difficult enough, since either one can seriously disrupt a person's life. But what about when someone has both of these disorders? Clearly, the resulting "mix" of symptoms and negative experiences can be even more disruptive and hard to manage.

If you have both BPD and PTSD, it's important to understand other conditions for which you may have a higher risk (for example, substance abuse, depression, or deliberate self-harm). Armed with this knowledge, you can take steps to develop healthy coping skills that will help you minimize those risks.

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The Connection between Borderline Personality Disorder and PTSD

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Many people have both BPD and PTSD. Why do these disorders sometimes occur together? The connection hasn't been well studied. But according to some mental health professionals, one reason may be that both disorders share some of the same risk factors, such as problems managing emotions and the experience of a traumatic event. If you have both BPD and PTSD, learning more about how they're connected can help you better understand and manage your symptoms.

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The Connection between Avoidant Personality Disorder and PTSD

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PTSD often co-occurs with avoidant personality disorder. Few studies have looked at the relationship between PTSD and avoidant personality disorder; however, those that have been done indicate that people with both PTSD and avoidant personality disorder may be at higher risk for some serious problems, such as deliberate self-harm. Learn more about this connection in this article.

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Dialectical Behavior Therapy -- Could DBT Help You?

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Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), a form of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), has been found to be very effective for treating symptoms of BPD. DBT helps people better manage their emotions and relationships. Although DBT was originally developed as a treatment for BPD, many DBT skills have also helped people with PTSD as well as those with both disorders. You may not yet be familiar with DBT. If you have BPD, PTSD, or both, take a few minutes to become familiar with DBT and consider whether it could help you.

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