Community Psychiatry’s Leela Magavi, M.D. and Julian Lagoy, M.D. were featured in The Mighty discussing Personality Disorders. 

What Does It Actually Mean to Have a ‘Personality Disorder’?

Our personalities are what define who we are as individuals. It’s our way of thinking, feeling emotions and behaviors that make each of us different. An individual’s personality is influenced by their life situations, surroundings as well as inherited characteristics. But what happens when you’re told your personality is a “disorder”?

Personality Disorders and Trauma

Rather than being a sign of a “defective” personality, what psychologists and psychiatrists used to think of as a personality disorder is usually the result of developing in a traumatic or difficult environment. BPD is a perfect example: A child may not have the opportunity to learn how to regulate their emotions or self-soothe, due to no fault of their own.

“What distinguishes personality disorders from other mental disorders is that personality disorders are usually caused by a difficult upbringing and trauma in childhood whereas other mental illnesses have an organic or genetic cause (i.e. schizophrenia),” said Julian Lagoy, M.D., a psychiatrist with Community Psychiatry.

Personality traits are hereditary and frequently linked to trauma or neglect from a primary caregiver. Attachment is the deep connection established between a child and their primary caregiver that affects a child’s development and their ability to express emotions and build meaningful relationships later in life. The lack of attachment early in life may be linked to BPD.

“Individuals with personality disorders may have endured trauma early in their life or had insecure relationships with their primary caretakers; consequently, they perceive love and care differently,” said Leela R. Magavi, M.D. a Hopkins-trained psychiatrist.

The Label ‘Personality Disorder’ Is Stigmatizing 

Mental illness is stigmatized, and personality disorders are even more stigmatized — even among mental health professionals. There is a lot of misinformation about personality disorder and BPD out there, a lot of which isn’t accurate or even fair.

“In general people tend to think that since there is no genetic or organic cause for personality disorders, they are completely the patient’s fault,” said Dr. Lagoy, adding:

Obviously this is not true, because it is not someone’s fault if they are abused and traumatized as a child and develop a personality disorder. Likewise it is very detrimental to be told your personality is ‘wrong’ because it puts the blame all on you and is very damaging to a person and their self-esteem.

Click here to read the entire article on The Mighty.

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