How a Family Caregiver Can Manage an Aging Adult With a Personality Disorder

Among the most challenging types of mental health conditions are personality disorders. Although they are not particularly commonplace, you may find yourself in a position where you are the caregiver for a senior parent or other loved one who has been diagnosed with a personality disorder. In this article, we provide you with general information about the most common personality disorders and how you can manage a care recipient who has been diagnosed with one or more of these mental health conditions.

What Is a Personality Disorder?

A personality disorder is a mental disorder characterized by abnormal or pathological behavior. Personality disorders are very challenging to treat and may cause significant distress or impairment in social, work, or other areas of functioning. Some personality disorders are rarer than others, but all of them can be very disruptive to daily life.

There are several different types of personality disorders, but some of the most common ones include the following:

  • Borderline personality disorder
  • Narcissistic personality disorder
  • Antisocial personality disorder

As will be discussed throughout this article, people with these disorders (including seniors) often have difficulty regulating their emotions and behaviors. They may engage in harmful or destructive behaviors.

What Is Borderline Personality Disorder?

Borderline personality disorder is a mental disorder characterized by unstable moods, behavior, and relationships. People with borderline personality disorder experience intense episodes of anger, sadness, and happiness and often have difficulty regulating their emotions. They may also have trouble maintaining stable relationships and exhibit impulsive and reckless behaviors.

Borderline personality disorder can be a very disabling condition, and it is estimated that about 1.6 percent of adults in the United States have it. There is no single cause of borderline personality disorder, but it is thought to be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Treatment for borderline personality disorder usually involves a combination of medication and therapy.

What Is Narcissistic Personality Disorder?

Narcissistic Personality Disorder is a mental disorder in which people have an inflated sense of their importance, a deep need for admiration, and a lack of empathy for others. People with a narcissistic personality disorder may be very charming at first, but they soon reveal their true colors as arrogant, selfish, and insensitive.

If you think you or someone you know may have a narcissistic personality disorder, it’s important to get help. Narcissistic personality disorder can cause problems in every area of a person’s life, including regarding relationships with family members.

What Is Antisocial Personality Disorder?

An antisocial personality disorder is a mental disorder characterized by a lack of empathy and disregard for the rights and feelings of others. People with an antisocial personality disorder may be aggressive, irresponsible, and impulsive. They may also engage in criminal behavior.

People with an antisocial personality disorder often have difficulty forming and maintaining relationships with others. They may be irritable and hostile and have a history of aggression and violence.

People with antisocial personality disorder are at risk for substance abuse and addiction. They are also more likely to engage in risky behaviors, such as driving recklessly or engaging in unsafe sex. This can include seniors.

An antisocial personality disorder is a relatively rare condition, affecting about 1 percent of the population. It is more common in men than women.

There is no single cause of antisocial personality disorder, but it is believed to be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Treatment for Antisocial personality disorder usually includes medication and therapy.

Assume a Difficult Person Will Be Difficult During Caregiving Years

A senior with a personality disorder may resist help altogether or insist on excessive and unnecessary assistance. They are apt never to give thanks. Often provocative behavior or conduct will be easier to take and manage if the caregiver expects it.

Calmly Respond to Displays of High Emotion

When a care recipient’s emotions run high, speak more softly, not louder. Repeat back to them the concerns they have expressed to demonstrate that their message has been heard. This in and of itself often helps care receivers calm down.

Establish Boundaries

Establishing clear and well-defined boundaries is vital if you are the caregiver or care provider for an individual with a personality disorder. Make certain what you are able and willing to do. If the care receiver pushes back or becomes irate, calmly hold your ground. Giving in to their anger will only encourage them to use it again to control you and the situation.

Remain Compassionate

As challenging as this can be, you do need to strive to remain compassionate. People with personality disorders are often (usually) unhappy. Even when they are taking out their frustrations on others, you should never lose sight of their suffering. Empathize with their suffering and help them within limits you set without agreeing to suffer yourself.

Is There a Cure for a Personality Disorder?

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, as the treatment for personality disorders will vary depending on the specific disorder that a person is dealing with. However, there are a number of treatments that may be effective for personality disorders, including therapy, medication, and self-care.

Therapy is often the main treatment for personality disorders and can help people learn how to manage their symptoms and better cope with their disorders. Several different therapies may be effective for personality disorders, including cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy, and psychoeducation.

Medication may also be prescribed to help people with personality disorders manage their symptoms. There are a number of different medications that may be used for this purpose, including antipsychotics, antidepressants, and mood stabilizers.

Finally, self-care is also important for people with personality disorders. This includes things like getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet, and exercising regularly.

Caregiver Separation From a Family Member With a Personality Disorder

When it comes to a caregiver separating from someone with a personality disorder, the process can be a daunting task. Personality disorders are characterized by rigid and inflexible thinking and extreme behavior. This can make it difficult for the person with the disorder to adapt to change and can often lead to real issues when a family caregiver determines that he or she can no longer provide assistance to a family member with a personality disorder.

Suppose you are considering separating as the primary family caregiver from someone with a personality disorder. In that case, it is important to remember that they may not be able to change their behavior, even if they want to. It is also important to remember that personality disorders are chronic conditions that will likely not go away.

If you are considering caregiver separation from someone with a personality disorder, it is important to have a solid plan in place. This includes having a safety plan for yourself and your other family members, if applicable. It is also important to have a support system in place, both during and after the separation. Finally, it is important to keep in mind that you will likely need professional help to navigate this difficult decision.