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Personality disorders

The term "personality disorder" is a label used to describe people who have difficulties starting or maintaining relationships, often to the extent where they struggle to work, study or enjoy a good quality of life. There are many techniques, from talk therapy to medication, that our psychotherapists, psychologists and psychiatrists can use to help people with diagnosed personality disorders to better understand their condition, and thus live better lives.
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How do I know if I have ADHD? Does my child have ADHD?

Many people with ADHD aren't aware they have it. They will be aware however that everyday tasks seem more difficult for them than for others. Typical symptoms are finding it hard to focus, missing deadlines and trouble controlling impulses, ranging from impatience to mood swings and outbursts of anger. Other symptoms include:

  • Trouble multitasking.
  • Excessive activity or restlessness.
  • Poor planning.
  • Hot temper.
  • Trouble coping with stress.

What ADHD is not

The above list may be familiar to most people at different times in their lives. If these symptoms occur only occasionally, they probably don't have ADHD. A doctor usually diagnoses when someone’s symptoms cause problems that stop a person working, finding stable housing, or living normally and safely.

Diagnosis of ADHD in adults is often trickier because the same symptoms also occur in mental health conditions, such as anxiety or mood disorders. Many adults with ADHD also have at least one other mental health condition (depression and anxiety are the most common).

At what age do ADHD symptoms appear?

Symptoms usually start before the age of 12 and continue into adulthood.

How long does ADHD last?

ADHD is a lifelong condition, though it often becomes less marked in adulthood. But it can be effectively managed. The first step is to see a doctor and start seeking a diagnosis.

How many people have ADHD?

In the UK, the incidence of ADHD in school-aged children is thought to be between 3 and 5%. In adults it is between 3 and 4%.

What causes ADHD?

We still don’t know for sure. An enormous amount of research is focused on finding the causes of ADHD. Factors that may be involved include:

  • Genetics.
  • Environment.
  • Problems during development.

What are the risk factors for ADHD?

The risk of a person developing ADHD may increase if:

  • Family members suffer from ADHD.
  • During pregnancy the mother smokes, drinks, or uses drugs.
  • A child is premature.

What are the impacts of delayed diagnosis of ADHD?

ADHD has been linked to:

  • Poor school or work performance.
  • Unemployment.
  • Financial problems.
  • Trouble with the police.
  • Alcohol or drug misuse.
  • Unstable relationships.
  • Poor self-esteem.

How is ADHD diagnosed?

Making the diagnosis normally includes:

  • Asking questions about symptoms and family medical history.
  • ADHD tests to measure symptoms.

What are the treatments for ADHD?

ADHD is normally treated through a two-pronged approach:

  • Medication.
  • Therapy.

ADHD medication

Doctors might prescribe stimulants for ADHD – which might seem counterintuitive, but has a strong evidence basis for regulating brain activity.

Some ADHD patients might also benefit from antidepressants or other medication, but in every case a doctor is best placed to advise on what to take.

Therapy for ADHD

Psychotherapy is indicated for people with ADHD but behavioural therapies can also help manage traits that make people with ADHD disorganised, and teach useful skills as well.

Help and information about ADHD

ADHD (NHS Choices)

NHS Choices provides information about the signs, symptoms and treatment for depression.

ADHD Foundation

For people with an ADHD diagnoses, this charity provides resources and advocacy.

Young Minds

Aimed at young people, this profile of ADHD explains what it is, how to seek treatment and mental health concerns for people with ADHD in a clear and straightforward way.

Click here to see practitioners who specialise in

Personality disorders

Do I have a personality disorder?

Personality disorder (PD) is described by the Royal College of Psychiatrists as a condition which impacts the ability of those suffering from it to learn from things that happen to them or have difficulties changing the parts of their personality that cause them problems.

Typical symptoms include difficulties:

  • Forming or keeping close relationships
  • Keeping out of trouble
  • Controlling feelings or behaviour
  • Listening to other people

Life is more difficult for people with a personality disorder (whether diagnosed or undiagnosed). They are therefore more likely to have other mental health problems such as depression, or abuse drugs or alcohol.

What a personality disorder is not

The above list may be familiar to most people at different times in their lives. If these symptoms occur only occasionally or during specific periods of stress, you probably don't have a personality disorder. Personality disorder is diagnosed only when symptoms are severe enough to cause ongoing problems in more than one area of a person’s life – for example, if a person often has trouble with the police, finds it hard to keep a job, or has difficulty maintaining meaningful relationships.

Are there different types of personality disorders?

Yes, there are, according to the World Health Organisation. These can be split into three different groups:

  • Cluster A: 'Odd or Eccentric’ (paranoid, schizoid, schizotypal)
  • Cluster B: 'Dramatic, Emotional, or Erratic' (antisocial, borderline, histrionic, narcissistic)
  • Cluster C: 'Anxious and Fearful' (obsessive compulsive, avoidant, dependant)

People suffering from personality disorders may often show “traits” associated with different groups.

When can personality disorders start?

Others may notice signs of personality disorder when they are in their childhood or early teen years.

How long does a personality disorder last?

There is evidence that personality disorders improve slowly as people get older. Antisocial behaviour and impulsiveness, in particular, tend to become less frequent as people move through their 30s and 40s.

How many people have a personality disorder?

As much as 5% of the UK population may have a personality disorder – around 3 million people.

What causes personality disorders?

As with most mental health conditions, there is no one single cause. That is why it is often easier to think about these things as having risk factors associated with their development.

Risk factors for personality disorders

These include:

  • Genetics. If a close family member suffers from personality disorders, another may well develop similar traits.
  • Brain chemistry. Recent research suggests those with antisocial personality disorder may have brains that are structured slightly differently to others’.
  • Childhood trauma. Children who have experienced physical or sexual abuse, violence in the family or those whose parents who drink too much or abused drugs are at greater risk of developing personality disorders.

What are the treatments for personality disorders?

Therapy for personality disorders

Therapists recommend using behavioural approaches for PD:

  • Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT). A combination of cognitive and behavioural therapies, with some techniques from mindfulness. It is particularly helpful in treating borderline personality disorder (BPD).
  • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). An approach that focuses on changing unhelpful patterns of thinking.

Medication for personality disorders

Antidepressants, antipsychotics and mood-stabilising drugs are all used in the treatment of personality disorders.

Useful resources about personality disorders

Personality Disorder UK

A site for resources for people with PD and their families, commissioned by the Personality Disorder development team from the Department of Health.


The leading UK mental health charity has information about specific personality disorder diagnoses, such as BPD, and how to manage them.