What is “personality” and when is it disorder?

According to the American Psychological Association, whose diagnostic criteria we use  in treatment, Personality is the “way of thinking, feeling and behaving that makes a person different from other people. An individual’s personality is influenced by experiences, environment (surroundings, life situations) and inherited characteristics. A personality disorder is a way of thinking, feeling and behaving that deviates from the expectations of the culture, causes distress or problems functioning, and lasts over time.


There are 10 specific types of personality disorders (such as borderline personality disorder). All personality disorders share a common trait: a long-term pattern of behavior and inner experience that differs significantly from what is expected. The pattern of experience and behavior begins by late adolescence or early adulthood (often as a result of trauma, abuse, or neglect) and causes distress or problems in functioning with others. Without treatment, the behavior and experience is inflexible and usually long-lasting. The pattern is seen in at least two of these areas:

  • How you think about yourself and others
  • How you respond emotionally
  • How you relating to other people
  • How you control (or  don’t control) one’s behavior

Personality traits, disordered or not, are theorized to develop around age 6 or 7. By that age, how we see the world, our expectations and how we navigate life, are solidified; left unchallenged, we’re pretty set in those values and view points, at a very young age.

That doesn’t mean change isn’t possible. Despite what the internet says, people affected by a personality disorder or personality struggles, can change.

Personality disorders  (PD) often arise out of childhood trauma, emotional neglect and/or abuse, with 80- 90% of people affected by a PD having a history of childhood abuse or neglect (Lenahan, 2011). As a result, those affected with a PD will often need trauma care as well.  Our clinical staff are trained or certified in clinical trauma treatment, and guided under the direction of Dr. Norman, who has spent thousands of hours researching and working with people who struggle with their personality and treating trauma in adults and children.  PDs are often marked by a person who has a lifetime of being in turbulent, unpredictable (and many times abusive) relationships, using unhealthy coping skills, and fears around abandonment, control, self esteem, and performance. Through psychological testing, DBT and psychotherapy, people with PD or struggles, can develop new coping and crisis distress skills, gain personal insight to one’s psychological history, and turn negative behaviors into positive actions. Even if you don’t have a PD, DBT and psychotherapy can still help people find improved ways of communication, and develop better self care as ways of reducing  interpersonal conflict.

What if I don’t have a disorder, but just a strong personality?

Not every personality trait is “clinical”, or should be made clinical.  Sometimes, our personality traits simply clash with different or opposing personality traits in others. Using the most current, up to date personality testing such as the Big Five, MMPI, Strengths Based Testing, projective testing and other personality inventories, we can help you figure out who you are, as a person! And, how to use or adjust those traits to improve your relationships, across all areas of life.

If you want to learn more about your personality, or think you may be affected by personality struggles or a disorder, and want to learn how to have different relationships with people, we can help.



Phone: (630) 423-6010

Office Hours:

Monday:            8:00 am to 8:00 pm
Tuesday:            8:00 am to 8:00 pm
Wednesday:      8:00 am to 8:00 pm
Thursday:          8:00 am to 8:00 pm
Friday:               8:00 am to 8:00 pm
Saturday:          12:00 Pm to 6:00 pm
Sunday:             Closed

Our phones are answered live Monday through Friday, 8:30 am to 6 pm, excluding Holidays. After hours, please leave a message and we’ll return your call the next business day. Alternatively, you can email us for a faster response after hours/weekends .

If you are in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, a free, 24-hour hotline at 1.800.273.8255. If your issue is an emergency, call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room. Transformative Growth  Counseling does not offer crisis counseling or emergency services.