Personality Disorders are “a type of mental disorder in which you have a rigid and unhealthy pattern of thinking, functioning and behaving” ("Personality Disorders"). Personality disorders are usually divided into three clusters: Cluster A includes paranoid, schizoid, and schizotypal disorders; Cluster B includes antisocial, borderline, narcissistic, and histrionic disorders; and Cluster C includes avoidant, obsessive-compulsive, and dependent disorders.
Here's a description of a few taken directly off of Mayo Clinic's website cited at the end of this article.
1. Histrionic personality disorder
• Constantly seeking attention
• Excessively emotional, dramatic or sexually provocative to gain attention
• Speaks dramatically with strong opinions, but few facts or details to back them up
• Easily influenced by others
• Shallow, rapidly changing emotions
• Excessive concern with physical appearance
• Thinks relationships with others are closer than they really are
2. Narcissistic personality disorder
• Belief that you're special and more important than others
• Fantasies about power, success and attractiveness
• Failure to recognize others' needs and feelings
• Exaggeration of achievements or talents
• Expectation of constant praise and admiration
• Unreasonable expectations of favors and advantages, often taking advantage of others
• Envy of others or belief that others envy you
3. Avoidant personality disorder
• Too sensitive to criticism or rejection
• Feeling inadequate, inferior or unattractive
• Avoidance of work activities that require interpersonal contact
• Socially inhibited, timid and isolated, avoiding new activities or meeting strangers
• Extreme shyness in social situations and personal relationships
• Fear of disapproval, embarrassment or ridicule
4. Dependent personality disorder
• Excessive dependence on others and feeling the need to be taken care of
• Submissive or clingy behavior toward others
• Fear of having to provide self-care or fend for yourself if left alone
• Lack of self-confidence, requiring excessive advice and reassurance from others to
make even small decisions
• Difficulty starting or doing projects on your own due to lack of self-confidence
• Difficulty disagreeing with others, fearing disapproval
• Tolerance of poor or abusive treatment, even when other options are available
• Urgent need to start a new relationship when a close one has ended
5. Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder
• Preoccupation with details, orderliness and rules
• Extreme perfectionism, resulting in dysfunction and distress when perfection is not
achieved, such as feeling unable to finish a project because you don't meet your own
• Desire to be in control of people, tasks and situations, and inability to delegate tasks
• Neglect of friends and enjoyable activities because of excessive commitment to work
or a project
• Inability to discard broken or worthless objects
• Rigid and stubborn
• Inflexible about morality, ethics or values
• Tight, miserly control over budgeting and spending money
These disorders are said to be a result of environmental and genetic factors as well as variations in brain chemicals. They can be treated with therapy and medication as well as lifestyle changes. I find this all very interesting, and certainly this research can inform a Christian who may be suffering from one of these disorders.
But I’m really interested in knowing what Jesus would’ve said if someone in the first century had said, “Lord, I suffer from histrionic personality disorder. Can you heal me?” Would he have said:
“Okay. BAM! You’re healed! You’ll never have to deal with this again?”
“Alas, I cannot take this burden from you. You must learn to live with it. Here’s some medication. That will lessen the effects.”
“Deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me.”
I wish I could know. Would Jesus have been able to heal that person or not? I ask this because I’ve heard conflicting opinions on the subject. Some people talk about anxiety attacks and depression and bipolar disorder like they’re a permanent physical handicap, much like being blind or an invalid. Disorders can’t be willed away and Jesus doesn’t seem to want to heal them either.
And yet, I don’t think I’m going out on a limb here saying that mental disorders seem awfully similar to the affects of growing up in a fallen world; that is, being born (genetics) and growing up (environment) outside of a relationship with God who is the source of all knowledge and wisdom. I think the bible calls it being a slave to sin and living a life in the flesh. The bible talks about the life of the flesh like this:
“Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them” (Romans 1:28-32 NIV).
All our wrong thinking is a result of our living in a fallen world. We don’t know who we are in Christ, so we feel we must defend ourselves with lies or an insatiable pursuit of praise or bombastic opinions on social media. We don’t believe God can take care of us, so we panic whenever circumstances are out of our control. We don’t understand God’s grace, so we assign people motives or we keep track of other’s wrongs or assume we know how others ought to act. For the believer, who by definition has accepted God’s grace and become a new person, this means a disconnect between what they say they believe and what they do.
Perhaps this sounds too harsh. After all, there are genetics and environment to consider. A person may grow up in a difficult home with verbal and physical abuse. They may have been neglected as a child and experienced some kind of brain damage that altered the way they think. They just can’t will themselves to believe rightly. There’s a disconnected between what they want to believe and what they do.
“We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it” (Romans 7:14-20 NIV).
When we believe that what Christ did on the cross covers our mistakes, when we take the Holy Spirit into our hearts, we invite the most powerful healer in to transform us. There is no wrong thinking that he cannot change. There is no chemical in the brain that he can’t alter. There is no horrific childhood that he can’t heal. But unlike Christ’s healing miracles, the remaking of our crooked minds and the healing of our broken hearts takes a lifetime of living in communion with him and his body.
I am not suggesting that reading the bible, praying, and being in communion with believers will heal all personality disorders through the course of a lifetime. I am not saying that medication or therapy or lifestyle changes are unnecessary. But I am saying that the most powerful force for healing our damaged brains and skewed minds is a relationship with Christ and His body.
"Personality Disorders." Mayo Clinic, 23 Sept, 2016. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER), www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/personality-disorders/symptoms-causes/syc-20354463. Accessed 31 Jan, 2018.