The idea that personality disorders cannot be treated is ‘damaging myth’

The idea that people with personality disorders cannot be treated is a damaging and untrue myth, leading psychiatrists have said.

In its first-ever position statement on the issue, the Royal College of Psychiatrists said failure to treat a personality disorder can be fatal, with one in 10 people with a personality disorder committing suicide.

The College said psychiatrists and sufferers alike “believe there is a pervasive myth in society, including amongst some health professionals, that a personality disorder cannot be treated”.

It pointed to national variation in the services on offer, with only one in four people with personality disorder who go on to commit suicide ever being referred to a specialist service for personality disorder.

When it comes to medication, 90% of people with personality disorder are given drugs even though it is not considered best practice unless the person is also suffering from a mental illness which can be treated with medication.

People are often prescribed medication owing to a lack of specialist services that offer a joined-up approach, the College said.

Dr Oliver Dale, co-editor of the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ position statement, said: “For too long, personality disorder has been seen as too complex to tackle.

“This paper demonstrates there is much we can do to change people’s lives.

“Through publishing this statement, the College is echoing the call for leadership and investment.

“It is hoped the statement will support the efforts of the NHS Long Term Plan amongst others to address the social injustice that a continued lack of service delivery perpetuates.”