Personality disorders-Why is it controversial?

Explains some common controversies surrounding personality disorders and the stigma that is often associated with it.

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Just as each person’s experience with a personality disorder is personal to them, the causes are unique too.

There’s no definite explanation for why some individuals develop the emotions and behaviours linked to personality disorders, while others do not. Most experts think that a variety of factors likely raises the risk of developing or setting off these conditions.


Some individuals diagnosed with this condition believe their emotions and actions are a natural response to tough life events. They find it unhelpful and distressing to label it as an illness or a ‘disorder’ in their personality. They suggest that professionals should look into what life events might have led to their challenges and assist with these, rather than pointing out flaws in them as a person.

Some people feel that receiving this diagnosis helps them identify and make sense of their experiences, explain their situation to others, and in some cases, access treatment and support they wouldn’t have otherwise.

Mind is dedicated to making sure everyone’s opinions in this discussion are listened to. This covers people who:

  • view them as a natural response to tough times
  • see their experiences and behaviours as a disorder
  • don’t agree with the label of personality disorder
  • might not fully support the label but accept it as a means to get help.

It doesn’t consider social context enough

People are complex, and numerous social factors can influence our ability to manage stress, connect with others, and handle pressure. For instance:

  • Going through trauma in childhood, like abuse or neglect, or enduring trauma over a long period.
  • Facing stigma and discrimination, including racism, sexism, homophobia, biphobia, or transphobia.
  • Being mistreated in previous relationships, including by parents or caregivers.
  • Circumstances and environmental issues, such as poverty and social deprivation, or moving to an entirely new place or culture.

Any of these experiences can lead to overwhelming and unbearable emotions. This can significantly hinder managing the everyday challenges of adult life.

Specialists have different opinions on how to interpret personality disorders

The way we diagnose personality disorders, as described on our page about different types of personality disorders, is commonly used by psychiatrists in the UK. However, some psychiatrists find this approach unhelpful because:

  • Many individuals diagnosed with a personality disorder don’t neatly fit into a single category and might receive multiple diagnoses.
  • Some people argue that the emphasis should be on what each individual needs to address their issues and find new ways to live, rather than which category they fall into.

The term can create negative labels

Some people think the term ‘personality disorder’ can seem quite judgemental. Receiving a diagnosis or label of personality disorder might feel like you’re being told there’s something wrong with who you are. This can make you feel upset, offended, and left out. Language changes over time, so it’s possible that professionals might use a different term in the future.

Remember, you’re not on your own – there are others going through what you’re facing. No matter how you understand your challenges, you have the right to be treated with fairness. Here are some choices you might think about:

  • Be aware of your rights – for more information, see our section on legal rights.
  • Participate actively in your treatment – our sections on getting help for a mental health issue and advocacy offer advice on expressing your views on your treatment, ensuring you’re heard, and what to do if you’re dissatisfied with your care.
  • Share this information with others to help them grasp what your diagnosis truly signifies.

That being said, fighting stigma requires energy. When you’re feeling especially unwell, you might not have the strength to take on these activities. Be gentle with yourself and avoid putting pressure on yourself to do anything beyond resting and recovering when that’s what you need.

Could my diagnosis be wrong?

Some signs of personality disorder can look a lot like, or happen at the same time as, other mental health issues.

Your mood and current life events can influence how mental health experts understand your situation, making it tricky for them to pinpoint the most accurate diagnosis for what you’re going through.

If you’re concerned that your diagnosis doesn’t match how you’re feeling, it’s crucial to talk about it with a mental health professional. This ensures you receive the appropriate treatment and support you need.

Get support

Talk with a trained professional about your thoughts and feelings with out free counselling and private counselling service for people over the age of 18.

Counselling Private Counselling