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Are Personality Disorders For Life?

Question:

Hi Dr Schwartz.

I would like an honest answer to my question. I have been diagnosed with Avoidant Personality Disorder.  I am doing everything recommended to overcome this. I am doing individual and group CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy). I need to know if the best I can hope for is to manage the disorder?  Will I always have this disorder and is it possible to be cured? This is very important to me, I have a need to know. Thank you for your time.

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  • Dr. Schwartz responds to questions about psychotherapy and mental health problems, from the perspective of his training in clinical psychology.
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Answer:

In my opinion, you are asking an enormously important and complicated question. I am telling you that its a complicated question because it has a lot to do with diagnosis in psychology and psychiatry. We certainly need diagnoses because there are mental illnesses that require specific medications. For instance, schizophrenia is a mental illness that needs to be treated with medications because, without them, the person is too impaired to function. However, does this hold true for other areas of psychiatry?

In my opinion, and its only my opinion, the use of diagnoses with personality disorders is not helpful and, many times, can be harmful. You question has a lot to do with the potentially harmful nature of pinning labels on certain things. You are feeling very distressed with being told you have an “avoidant personality disorder.” I would also feel distressed and I will tell you why.

As human beings we have an enormous capacity to change, grow and learn. This holds true throughout our lives if we rule out some type of physical illness that threatens our existence.

So, I am telling you that you are unlimited in your ability to live your life in the way you wish. Yes, you have anxieties and, I suspect, depression, too. I guess you avoid social interaction and self isolate. Well, you can deal with those things and your therapies will help you to do so. What you need is to feel motivated.

So, stop thinking about “being or having” a personality disorder. Start thinking about all the plans you have for your life. Never let labels stop you. Reject the idea of being “disordered.” Think of yourself as who you are and learn to accept yourself with all your strengths and weaknesses.

All of us have problems and all of us work to overcome them.

Best of Luck

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Comments
  • Anonymous-1

    Well said! thankyou this gives me alot of hope, I have come a long way over the last 5 years. Mostly through forgetting about what doctors have said and recommended and focusing on being positive about my thinking and my attitude to others and life.

    Your thinking = how you feel - I really believe it is as simple as that!

  • BklynMSW

    What a beautiful, compassionate answer. While diagnoses can be helpful to pinpoint a direction for intervention and self-growth, too often they're turned into labels that serve only to torture the labeled. And our healthcare system being what it is, it is possible for that diagnosis to follow someone for life. So I thank you for emphasizing that people grow and change...after all, that's what life is about, right? If we don't change and grow, what's the point?

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