A personality disorder is a type of mental disorder in which you have a rigid and unhealthy pattern of thinking, functioning, and behaving. If you have this disorder, you may have a difficult time relating to others and dealing with everyday problems in the ways that are expected by your cultural group.
You may not be fully aware of this discrepancy between your thoughts and behaviors and those accepted by society.
In some cases, you may not realize that you have a personality disorder because your way of thinking and behaving seems natural to you. And you may blame others for the challenges you face. It usually begins in the teenage years or early adulthood. There are many types of personality disorders.
Some types may become less obvious throughout middle age. You may have a view of the world that’s quite different than that of others. As a result, you could find it difficult to participate in social, educational, and family activities.
These behaviors and attitudes often cause problems and limitations in relationships, social encounters, and work or school settings. They may also make people feel isolated, which can contribute to depression and anxiety.
It is treatable, however. Often a combination of talk therapy and medication can go a long way in helping you live with one of these conditions.
Symptoms & Types of Personality Disorder
Types of personality disorders are grouped into three clusters, based on similar characteristics and symptoms. Many people with one personality disorder also have signs and symptoms of at least one additional personality disorder.
It’s not necessary to exhibit all the signs and symptoms listed for a disorder to be diagnosed.
They’re grouped into three clusters based on similar characteristics and symptoms. Some people may have signs and symptoms of multiple personality disorders.
Cluster A personality disorders
Cluster A personality disorders are characterized by odd, eccentric thinking or behavior. They include paranoid personality disorder, schizoid personality disorder, and schizotypal personality disorder.
Paranoid personality disorder
- Pervasive distrust and suspicion of others and their motives
- Unjustified belief that others are trying to harm or deceive you
- Unjustified suspicion of the loyalty or trustworthiness of others
- Hesitancy to confide in others due to unreasonable fear that others will use the information against you
- Perception of innocent remarks or nonthreatening situations as personal insults or attacks
- Angry or hostile reaction to perceived slights or insults
- Tendency to hold grudges
- Unjustified, recurrent suspicion that spouse or sexual partner is unfaithful
Schizoid personality disorder
- Lack of interest in social or personal relationships, preferring to be alone
- Limited range of emotional expression
- Inability to take pleasure in most activities
- Inability to pick up normal social cues
- Appearance of being cold or indifferent to others
- Little or no interest in having sex with another person
Schizotypal personality disorder
- Peculiar dress, thinking, beliefs, speech or behavior
- Odd perceptual experiences, such as hearing a voice whisper your name
- Flat emotions or inappropriate emotional responses
- Social anxiety and a lack of or discomfort with close relationships
- Indifferent, inappropriate or suspicious response to others
- “Magical thinking” — believing you can influence people and events with your thoughts
- Belief that certain casual incidents or events have hidden messages meant only for you
Cluster B personality disorders
Cluster B personality disorders are characterized by dramatic, overly emotional, or unpredictable thinking or behavior. They include antisocial personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, histrionic personality disorder, and narcissistic personality disorder.
Antisocial personality disorder
- Disregard for others’ needs or feelings
- Persistent lying, stealing, using aliases, conning others
- Recurring problems with the law
- Repeated violation of the rights of others
- Aggressive, often violent behavior
- Disregard for the safety of self or others
- Impulsive behavior
- Consistently irresponsible
- Lack of remorse for behavior
Borderline personality disorder
- Impulsive and risky behavior, such as having unsafe sex, gambling or binge eating
- Unstable or fragile self-image
- Unstable and intense relationships
- Up and down moods, often as a reaction to interpersonal stress
- Suicidal behavior or threats of self-injury
- Intense fear of being alone or abandoned
- Ongoing feelings of emptiness
- Frequent, intense displays of anger
- Stress-related paranoia that comes and goes
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
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
Cluster C personality disorders
Cluster C personality disorders are characterized by anxious, fearful thinking or behavior. They include avoidant personality disorder, dependent personality disorder, and obsessive-compulsive personality disorder.
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
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
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 strict standards
- 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
An Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder is not the same as obsessive-compulsive disorder, a type of anxiety disorder.
Personality disorder treatment
Treatment can vary depending on the type and severity of your personality disorder. It may include psychotherapy and medications.
Psychotherapy, or talk therapy, may help in managing personality disorders. During psychotherapy, you and a therapist can discuss your condition, as well as your feelings and thoughts. This can provide you with insight on how to manage your symptoms and behaviors that interfere with your daily life.
There are many types of psychotherapy. First, Dialectical behavior therapy can include group and individual sessions where people learn how to tolerate stress and improve relationships. And the second is, Cognitive-behavioral therapy aims to teach people how to change negative thinking patterns so they can better cope with everyday challenges.
There aren’t any medications approved for the treatment of personality disorders. However, certain types of prescription medications might be helpful in reducing various personality disorder symptoms, such as:
- antidepressants, which can help improve a depressed mood, anger, or impulsivity
- mood stabilizers, which prevent intense mood changes and reduce irritability and aggression
- antipsychotic medications, also known as neuroleptics, which can help reduce symptoms of psychosis like hallucinations and delusions
- anti-anxiety medications, which can help relieve anxiety, agitation, and insomnia
Personality is the combination of thoughts, emotions, and behaviors that make you unique. It’s the way you view, understand, and relate to the outside world, as well as how you see yourself.
Personality forms during childhood, shaped through an interaction of:
- Your genes – Certain personality traits may be passed on to you by your parents through inherited genes. These traits are sometimes called your temperament.
- Your environment – This involves the surroundings you grew up in, events that occurred, and relationships with family members and others.
Personality disorders are thought to be caused by a combination of these genetic and environmental influences.
However, your genes may make you vulnerable to developing a personality disorder, and a life situation may trigger the actual development.
Although the precise cause is still unknown, certain factors seem to increase the risk of developing or triggering personality disorders, including:
- Family history of personality disorders or other mental illness
- Abusive, unstable or chaotic family life during childhood
- Being diagnosed with childhood conduct disorder
- Variations in brain chemistry and structure
Personality disorders can significantly disrupt the lives of both the affected person and those who care about that person. And it may cause problems with relationships, work, or school, and also it can lead to social isolation or alcohol or drug abuse.
How can I help someone with a personality disorder?
If someone close to you may have a personality disorder, there are a few things you can do to help them feel comfortable. This is important: People with personality disorders might be unaware of their condition or think they don’t need treatment.
If they’ve received a diagnosis with a personality disorder, here are a few tips to help them through the treatment process:
- Be patient. Sometimes people need to take a few steps back before they can move forward. And, try to allow space for them to do this. And also, avoid taking their behavior personally.
- Be practical. Offer practical support, such as scheduling therapy appointments and making sure they have a reliable way to get there.
- Be available. Let them know if you’d be open to joining them in a therapy session if it would help.
- Be vocal. In addition to that, tell them how much you appreciate their efforts to get better.
- Be mindful of your language. Use “I” statements instead of “you” statements. For example, rather than saying “You scared me when…,” try saying “I felt scared when you…”
- Be kind to yourself. Most importantly, make time to care for yourself and your needs. Because it’s hard to offer support when you’re burned out or stressed.