“Everyone has a personality disorder”

It’s got to be my least favourite thing to hear these days. It really tops my list. Even friends say it, even people who have good insight into mental illness say it (in fact, they can be the worst).

No, no they don’t.

The underlying idea behind this statement is that personality disorders aren’t real. People don’t realise what they are saying when they go around saying that kind of thing to someone with one. It’s hard enough getting your head around being diagnosed with a personality disorder, without people then telling you it isn’t real.

It’s also really invalidating, and ironically in my case having borderline personality disorder, invalidation is actually one of the causes so it’s really not helpful to be told it is not real.

It is real. I will argue that down to the ground with anyone who says otherwise, professional or not. It is real. It is real when you are living with it, and although I hate the diagnosis, it’s also a relief to find something that makes sense to me. When you don’t know what is ‘wrong’ with you, it is really hard to get better from it. Learning about BPD, gaining understanding, is really helping me to get better. Do not tell me it is not real.

People take the criteria like ‘fear of abandonment’ and they’ll say “everyone has that”. Yes, most probably do. Most also like a clean house but that doesn’t mean they have OCD or that OCD is not real. It’s not about having one individual symptom, it is about having multiple. Multiple ones that impact on your life. Do not tell me it is not real.

Yes, personality disorders especially BPD may be over diagnosed, especially in people who present with chronic suicidal thoughts or repeated self-harm, but that does not mean it is not real. It means it is misused and misunderstood.

Far too many people are happy enough to tell me they don’t think it is real, but if I turn around and ask them to talk about what BPD is, they know nothing at all.

You cannot form opinions on something you know nothing about, and you cannot go around telling people that something they have, that they struggle to accept they have, but that they have to live with every day, is not real.

It is a horrible, awful thing to be told when it’s something you have. People wouldn’t do it with hardly any other disability, and the fact that even when I am in hospital, I still cannot bare to answer the “what is your diagnosis?” question with the truth, is disgusting.

We might be making some way with the general stigma of mental illness, but personality disorders remain 30 years behind.


12 thoughts on ““Everyone has a personality disorder”

  1. I agree with you 100%. I’m curious though, do you like the label “personality disorder”? For me being told that I have something wrong with my personality is just as invalidating (maybe more) as being told my problems don’t exist. Because of that, I think I’d prefer if these disorders weren’t real. What are your thoughts?

    1. I totally understand how you feel, and I’m aware that many find it a problem but I’ve never really felt that way myself, probably because I try not to..I don’t know, I guess think too much about the label. I just don’t. I focus on what the disorder means to me, and see past the label. The term ‘personality disorder’ is just a way of professionals gaining a little understanding and therefore being able to help/treat. The only people I really talk about it with our the professionals I know well, who understand me, and I know they don’t think it’s my personality that is flawed or the problem.

      And I also think it depends on how you think about it. I don’t think it is saying your personality is flawed, but rather I think about it like this:

      Things have happened in our lives that have impacted the way we have grown up. Because of this, it has affected some of the things that make us up – our ideas, our self-esteem..how we see ourselves, and how we think the world sees us..but it doesn’t mean we are bad people.

      I don’t know if any of this makes any sense!

  2. Hi Natalie – thanks for your ‘like’ on my post yesterday. I agree that how the public understands ‘medical’ labels about anything to do with the mind is confused and not at all helpful. I also think the medical profession itself has entrenched problems with their approach as well which does not help at all. Its Christmas day as I write so I hope your day is good and with best wishes, Chris

    1. Hey that’s ok! Thanks for commenting! I completely agree with what you’re saying. There are pro’s and con’s to having a diagnosis but from my personal experience, receiving a diagnosis has helped me to ‘know’ what I am dealing with and what steps can help me to get better. Ii guess it may affect individuals differently, so some people it may help, others it may make worse.

      I hope you had a lovely Christmas 🙂


      1. Hi Natalie, yes I agree completely that a label can at one time be a comfort and at others not. A label, like a box, should not turn into a prison. My concern with the approach of the medical profession is only when they regard ‘personality disorders’ as a disease, like the flu, rather than as an emotional injury, like a broken arm – both need healing but its a significant difference in approach…

        Have a great new year, Natalie and good luck with all that you do :)))


      2. I guess a diagnosis is never something anyone wants, but if you’ve got the ‘problem’, you’d rather know and find out your treatment options. My diagnosis is definitely helping me to understand myself more, and yes, some parts of it are hard to accept but I don’t think I’d change being diagnosed.

        I get what you mean, the way that the diagnosis of a personality is understood can at times (often!) be completely misunderstood and change a professionals opinion on what the outcome can be or how they treat the person. I think because it has the word ‘personality’ within it, people assume it means the persons personality is ‘flawed’ and that it also means it cannot be changed – which when you think about it, is ridiculous because most people’s personalities change over their lifetime to some degree any way – and it’s not even that someone with a PD has a flawed personality.

        I don’t know that I am making much sense!!


  3. Hi Natalle – yes you make complete sense to me :))) All our personalities change as we learn through receive feedback and responses with care, love and personal contact from those around us – and it is exactly that within which there is hope.


  4. I just got diagnosed and had someone say this to me for the first time today, I can’t thank you enough x

  5. I know you do. It’s comforting that at least people here understand, and there are more people in my life that haven’t been like that than people that have…. If that makes sense. Yes definitely!

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