What treatments are available?
There are a range of treatments that can help you if you experience a personality disorder. These include:
- talking therapies
- therapeutic communities
For information on how to access treatment for a personality disorder and how to have a say in your treatment, see our information on:
- getting access to treatment
- having a say in your treatment.
Can things improve for me?
Sometimes people assume that it’s impossible to change, especially when it comes to our personality. But research is showing that this isn’t the case. With time and the right treatment for you, it is possible for things to change and improve.
“All my life I have felt different, alienated and completely alone. It is only since my diagnosis of BPD that I began to understand why and, with help, to realise that I could actually do something to change those feelings and feel that I can achieve a life worth living.”
Talking therapies More research needs to be done into which talking therapies can help people with personality disorders. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) – the organisation that produces guidelines on best practice in health care – suggests that the following kinds of talking therapies may be helpful:
- Dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT) – a treatment specifically developed for borderline personality disorder (BPD). It uses individual and group therapy to help you learn skills to manage your emotions. See our pages on DBT for more information.
“The one-to-one sessions I received were invaluable. My therapist was able to help me understand the DBT skills I was learning and help me to apply them to my life. My greatest lesson was to learn to fail and to accept that this and continued practise was the key to using DBT.”
- Mentalisation-based therapy (MBT) – a long-term talking therapy which aims to improve your ability to recognise and understand your and other people’s mental states, and to help you examine your thoughts about yourself and others to see if they’re valid.
“Mentalisation is best summed up as ‘thinking about thinking’. It is being able to understand our own mental state and that of other people, and how this effects our behaviour. I identified with it immediately, as I really struggle with identifying what my emotions are and where they come from.”
NICE says that other types of talking therapy could also potentially be helpful, including the following:
- Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) – aims to help you understand how your thoughts and beliefs might affect your feelings and behaviour. See our pages on CBT for more information.
- Cognitive analytic therapy (CAT) – combines CBT’s practical methods with a focus on building a trusting relationship between you and your therapist who will help you make sense of your situation and find new, healthier ways to cope with your problems.
- Other talking therapies – such as schema-focused cognitive therapy, psychodynamic therapy, interpersonal therapy or arts therapies. See our pages on talking therapies and arts therapies for more information.
Therapeutic communities are programmes where you spend time in a group supporting each other to recover, with the help of a facilitator. Most therapeutic communities are residential (often in a large house) where you might stay for all or part of the week. Activities can include different types of individual or group therapy, as well as household chores and social activities.
“I spent 18 months as part of a Therapeutic Community, and I’m not exaggerating when I say it’s changed my life. My mood swings are far less frequent, and it’s rare that they reach the extremes that they used to.”
There are no drugs specifically licensed for the treatment of personality disorders. Many people with personality disorders also have other mental health diagnoses though, such as depression, anxiety or psychosis, and may be prescribed medication for these. These medications could include antidepressants, antipsychotics or mood stabilisers.
Before you take any medication Before deciding to take any medication, make sure you have all the facts you need to feel confident about your decision. For guidance on the basic information you might want, see our pages on:
- what you should know before taking any psychiatric drug
- receiving the right medication for you
- your right to refuse medication.
Where can I get treatment?
To get treatment at governmental hospitals under the Hospital Authority, you can first visit your family doctor/GP, who can refer you to a specialist for an assessment, or you could contact your local Integrated Community Centre for Mental Wellness (ICCMW), who will be able to refer you to the Community Psychiatric Service of the Hospital Authority for further clinical assessment or psychiatric treatment.
If you receive treatment from governmental hospitals under the Hospital Authority, it should be in line with international guidelines. These say that:
- Anyone with possible personality disorder should have a structured assessment with a mental health specialist before being given a diagnosis.
- You should have a say in the type of treatment you’re offered. If you’re not getting the type of treatment you think would most help you, it could help to talk to an advocate.
You can read the principles of care for people with a personality disorder and full guidelines and additional recommendations for BPD on the NICE website.
Will I get the help I need in a crisis?
Unfortunately, you might find that services in your area aren’t always able to provide the type of care you might find most helpful straight away, due to pressure on services. We know how frustrating and difficult it can be to cope with services that don’t provide the help you need, when you need it.
You can learn more about how to seek help in a crisis here.
Can I go private?
Waiting times for talking treatments from the public sector can unfortunately be long. If you feel that you don’t want to wait and you can afford the expense, or would like to see a therapist who specialises in the types of experiences you have had, you may choose to see a counsellor or psychotherapist privately.
See our pages on seeking help in hong kong for more information.
How can I have a say in my treatment?
A really important factor in your treatment is the relationship you form with the professionals who are helping you – whether they are a social worker, psychiatric nurse, therapist or psychiatrist. Having good treatment also depends on you being actively involved in it and having your say. You should expect to:
- Have your say in treatment – your doctor or psychiatrist should discuss all your treatment options with you, and your views and preferences should always be taken into account when making decisions about your treatment.
- Be involved in your care plan – a care plan is an agreement between you and the professionals you’re working with, about what you want to get out of your treatment. It should include the problems you want help with, any treatments you may need and planning for a crisis.
“It was only when I met some dedicated professionals willing to go that extra mile that I started to change and believe in myself. I was able to begin therapy and develop a good trusting relationship which has been consistent and secure.”
When don’t I have a choice in my treatment? You may not have a choice in your treatment if you:
- do not have mental capacity – this is where you are considered too unwell to make informed decisions about a specific situation – refer to the Mental Health Ordinance for more information
- are being kept in hospital under a section of the Mental Health Ordinance (sometimes called being sectioned)
- are being treated under a Community Treatment Order (CTO) – this means you are given supervised treatment in the community
- are being treated under a court order – this may be if you have committed an offence.
See our pages on seeking help for a mental health problem for more information.