It could be said that society as a whole has come a long way. In areas such as science and technology, we’ve made terrific leaps forward, similarly in the field of medicine, we have advanced massively over the past 50 years. And where equality is concerened, we’ve taken great strides in the right direction. For example, when somebody new moves in next door, the majority of people aren’t particularly concerned as to the race of their new neighbour, whether the new tenant is a part of the LGBT+ community, or if they are a man or a woman. Arguably most people are more focused on their own lives, and although there will always be some who are so consumed with hate and ignorance, they do seem to be a minority.
Even in the field of mental health, the once immortal stigma has been diminished greatly by various organisations whose sole aim is to help spread understanding and awareness. Despite the widespread criticism of social media, it’s partially down to the celebrities who have used these platforms in order to discuss their own mental health issues and experiences, that has really helped make these issues more accessible; promoting the concept that having a mental illness doesn’t make someone ‘scary’, but a regular person who may just struggle with problems different from your own. Instead of judgement, there is now a wealth of help for suffers of depression – websites and forums all reaching out to those who experience dramatic emotional lows. Likewise, there are apps now for suffers of anxiety to help them monitor potential triggers. These are incredible feats, and compared to how mental illness was seen even 50yrs ago, we have come an amazingly long way.
However, we still have a way to go. It seems that while some mental illnesses have become ‘acceptable’ in day to day life, quite a few are still burdened with an enormous stigma, fuelled mainly by misconceptions and false information. One example of this – personality disorders. It’s strange as to why so little is known of this group of 10 disorders, as according to the statistics from pdan.com (Personality Disorder Awareness Network), about 9.1% of the American population is diagnosed with one of these conditions, that’s about 32 million people. Although that number may actually be too low, as those suffering with a PD are widely recorded to not seek help.
These 10 disorders are sometimes categorised into three ‘clusters’ based on the main attributes:-
Cluster A is the ‘odd, eccentric’ cluster, including Schizoid Personality Disorder, Schizotypal Personality Disorder and Paranoid Personality Disorder.
Cluster B is the ‘emotional, dramatic and erratic’ cluster, Histrionic Personality Disorder, Anti-Social Personality Disorder, Narcissistic Personality Disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder.
And finally, Cluster C is the ‘anxious fearful’ cluster, Avoidant Personality Disorder, Dependant Personality Disorder and Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder.
Earlier it was mentioned that people with these conditions are unlikely to seek professional help, and there are many reasons for this, including certain symptoms of some of the disorders themselves. However, it could be said that a huge part of this reluctance is how these conditions are viewed in the media. Although the media seems to receive the blame for many social issues, in this case there’s arguably a real problem. How many articles have you seen, ‘10 Signs Your Partner is a Psychopath’ or ‘How to Cut Out The Narcissist in Your Life!’ Aside from the absurd idea you can diagnose someone with anti-social personality disorder (ASPD) from an online article found on Facebook, the use of the somewhat sensationalised term ‘psychopath’ is nothing more than click bait. The second article isn’t much better, with the piece’s main point seeming to be, ‘how to remove someone from your life just because they have a mental illness’. Imagine if these articles read, ‘How To Cut Out Cancer Suffers From Your Life’ or ‘Take This Quiz to Find Out if Your Partner Has a Broken Leg’. Both ridiculous and offensive articles, and no doubt would cause online outcry, and yet they seem to be acceptable when targeted at people with mental illness.
Despite the wealth of help out there for other mental conditions, there is little support for those with personality disorders. Most, if not all, the information you’ll find is geared towards people without these conditions, or simply fear-mongering articles like the ones mentioned above. A common argument is that some of these disorders, predominantly with the Cluster B conditions, are synonymous with abuse. In fact, if a person with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) looked up their condition, they would be confronted with thousands of sites for those who have suffered abuse at the hands of someone with NPD. It’s true, people with any of these disorders can be abusive, so can people who have sound mental health, as can someone with bipolar, anxiety, depression etc. Anyone can be abusive, not just the mentally ill.
However, there are a few resources available. Although there seems to be a general lack of support, there are Internet forums created by people with these disorders, places where they can talk about their problems without the fear of being judged. There are also a couple of sites which are aimed at people who are close to someone with a PD, either your spouse, parent, child or even friend, which provides them with all the information they need in order to fully support their loved ones.
Hopefully one day, every mental illness becomes free from stigma, and it finally loses its taboo status for good. It would be incredible for everyone to be able to receive the help they need, and to feel supported by those closest to them.
Below are a few helpful links I found in case anyone wanted to learn more.
General Information about Personality Disorders:
Support Sites for Those Wanting to Help Their Loved Ones:
Forum Aimed at People with Personality Disorders (and other conditions!)