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Personality Disorders

Personality disorders get a lot of attention in popular culture but are often misunderstood, much like the people who suffer from them. There is a lot of misinformation in the media about personality disorders. Many times, people use the terms “narcissist” or “borderline” inappropriately or label people as “crazy”, “manipulative”, an “attention seeker” or “dramatic”. Suicidal ideation (SI) and parasuicidal thoughts are common among people with personality disorders, especially borderline personality disorder (BPD) and narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). Many times, people with SI are viewed as scary or dangerous in some way, but this is usually very far from the truth. This misinformation further stigmatizes people with personality disorders who already tend to experience a lot of shame. The stigmatization of personality disorders creates a false narrative, not taking into account the person’s own experience and perspective. 


Personality traits are “enduring patterns of perceiving, relating to, and thinking about the environment and oneself” which are pervasive across social contexts. When someone’s personality traits are maladaptive and inflexible, causing the person significant distress and functional impairment, they may have a personality disorder. People with personality disorders exhibit patterns of behavior and inner experiences which differ from cultural expectations. Personality disorders exist on a wide spectrum, can be difficult to diagnose and difficult to treat. There are many reasons a person can develop a personality disorder, many of which stem from trauma. While these patterns are long-standing and ingrained, effective treatment does exist.


Mentalization Based Treatment (MBT) was designed to treat borderline personality disorder (BPD) and can be generalized to other personality presentations. There is ample evidence that MBT is highly effective at treating BPD. Studies show that clients who engage in MBT experience a significant reduction in BPD symptoms, including suicidality, and improvement in their overall quality of life which is maintained over time.


Erica Zajac, LCSW is a Certified MBT Practitioner, which is the highest level of training you can receive in MBT. In addition, they use ACT, emotional regulation and dynamic techniques in treating BPD and other personality disorders.



Research on MBT & BPD:

Mentalization based treatment for borderline personality disorder (World Psychiatry)

Is mentalization-based therapy effective in treating the symptoms of borderline personality disorder? A systematic review (Psychology and Psychotherapy Theory Research and Practice)

Mentalization-based treatment for BPD (Medical News Today)




American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.).

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