What is the Connection Between Anxiety and Personality Disorder?

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  • Written By: wiseGEEK Writer
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 15 October 2018
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One of the clearest connections between anxiety and personality disorder is that many of the types of personality disorder are likely to have mild to severe anxiety as a symptom. There have also been links established between borderline personality disorder (BPD) and higher anxiety sensitivity. Essentially, the symptom of anxiety is common in most personality disorders, and treatment must address it. The same treatment consideration occurs with depression, which also has a high frequency rate in people with personality disorders.

Anxiety and personality disorder are evidently closely connected. All of these disorders feature maladaptive behaviors and/or ways of thinking to compensate for some essential fear. When people greatly fear something like being abandoned, shamed, or losing control, anxiety rises.

Even if the fear isn’t rational, the amount of stress produced can be astronomical. This can lead to typical features of anxiety like panic attacks, insomnia, reduction in appetite, and others. Pronounced anxiety also increases the negative behaviors of personality disorder: the person with BPD might more easily become enraged, for instance, given a high anxiety state.

There is give and take to anxiety and personality disorder. The underlying fears of the personality disorder fuels anxiety, which in turn worsens the disorder. This can be a cyclically difficult combination that makes treatment challenging.


As stated, it’s also been discovered in a few studies that people with some personality disorders may be more prone to feel anxiety than people who don’t have them. While it may not be fair to conclude that anxiety and personality disorder have a direct causal relationship, it’s possible certain individuals may be more prone to both. This concept would appear to support the argument that personality disorders are not wholly an environmentally or nurture-based condition, since proclivity to anxiety disorders is often viewed as arising more from nature/biology.

Whether a person’s stress levels represent disorder of anxiety and personality disorder combined deserves some reflection in treatment. Clearly a more refined diagnosis helps to better determine the path to wellness. Sometimes, determining whether the standards for an anxiety disorder are met is difficult, and it could take a while to arrive at an accurate diagnosis.

Persistent anxiety, disorder or not, can be addressed in the context of therapy and through drug treatment. Understanding of the features of specific personality types might determine most appropriate medications. The higher rate of addictive and suicidal behavior in people with BPD, for example, might suggest to clinicians that they avoid more addictive tranquilizers like benzodiazepines and choose medicines that have low toxicity at overdose amounts. Since there are many personality disorders and levels of functioning within these disorders, medication suggestions are usually highly individualized and must be adjunct to extensive therapy. With successful therapy, reduction in anxiety levels is frequently achieved.



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