What are personality disorders?

What are personality disorders?

Personality is your combination of thoughts, feelings, and perspectives that shape how you see and function in the world. It includes how you view others, yourself, and the world in general. 

Everybody has a different personality type. When someone has a personality disorder, however, it makes it more difficult for them to function with others and affects how they see themselves and the world around them. 

Woman with personality disorder
Who is affected? 

Typically, a person is diagnosed with a personality disorder in their early adult years. It is hard to diagnose someone before they are an adult since they are still forming their personality. 

The two thoughts behind what causes a personality disorder is your genes and your environment. 

  • Genes – Some people believe that genes passed down through your family may make you more likely to have a personality disorder. 
  • Environment – The environment you are raised and live in may have an effect on your chances of developing a personality disorder. 
What are the different types of personality disorders? 

There are many different types of personality disorders each with its own characteristics. All of these disorders can be grouped into three clusters, though. These are Cluster A, B, and C. 

  • Cluster A – Odd or eccentric behavior.  
    • This includes schizoid personality disorder, paranoid personality disorder, and schizotypal personality disorder, among others. 
  • Cluster B – Overemotional, unpredictable thinking and behavior.  
    • This includes borderline personality disorder, antisocial personality disorder, and narcissistic personality disorder, to name a few. 
  • Cluster C – Anxious, fearful thinking and behavior.  
    • This includes obsessive-compulsive personality disorder, dependent personality disorder, and avoidant personality disorder. 

Do I have a personality disorder? 

Symptoms of different personality disorders 

Cluster A Examples: 

  • Schizoid Personality Disorder 
    • Can be seen as cold or distant 
    • Introverted; Prefer to be alone 
    • Limited range of emotions and expression 
    • Little to no interest in forming close relationships with others 
    • Inability to take pleasure from activities 
  • Paranoid Personality Disorder 
    • Suspicious of others 
    • Angry or sudden outbursts may be common 
    • Fear that others are trying to harm or undermine them 
    • Can be seen as distant or emotionless 
    • Struggle to trust or confide in others 
  • Schizotypal Personality Disorder 
    • Odd ways of thinking, dressing, or speaking 
    • Difficulty forming relationships with others 
    • May have peculiar beliefs and ways of thinking 
    • Inappropriate or flat emotional responses 
    • “Magical thinking” - Belief they can see into the future or can control things with their thoughts 

Cluster B Examples: 

  • Borderline Personality Disorder 
    • Experiences varying highs and lows in mood 
    • Unstable self-image 
    • Suicidal behavior 
    • Fear of abandonment 
    • Feelings of emptiness 
  • Antisocial Personality Disorder 
    • Problems with the law 
    • Unable to conform to social norms 
    • Aggressive and violent behaviors 
    • Lack of respect or feelings of empathy towards others 
    • Impulsive and irresponsible behavior 
  • Narcissistic Personality Disorder 
    • An exaggerated sense of self-importance 
    • Takes advantage of others; Lacks feelings of empathy 
    • Attention-seeking; Need for praise and admiration 
    • A belief that others are less important 
    • Feelings of insecurity 

Cluster C Examples: 

  • Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder 
    • Occupied with details and rules 
    • Perfectionism that leads to stress or inability to complete tasks 
    • Inflexible and rigid, especially when it comes to schedules, budgeting, and sudden changes 
    • Inflexible with values, ethics, and morals 
    • Focused on work so much that other relationships are neglected 

*This is not the same as Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, which you can read more about here. 

  • Dependent Personality Disorder 
    • Heavily dependent upon others 
    • Fear of being left alone or not being provided for 
    • Easily hurt by criticism 
    • Difficulty making decisions without approval from others 
    • Lack of self-confidence 
  • Avoidant Personality Disorder 
    • Fear of criticism 
    • Extremely shy or timid 
    • Avoid work activities or social situations 
    • Unwilling to get involved with others unless they are sure they will be liked 
    • Fear of disapproval or embarrassment

When should I see a doctor? 

If you experience any of the signs or symptoms of a personality disorder, you should schedule an appointment with a doctor or healthcare professional.  If left untreated, a personality disorder can cause problems that may get worse without treatment. 

How do I treat my personality disorder? 

The two most common types of treatment options include therapy and medication. Psychotherapy is a common, effective form of therapy used to treat different types of disorders. 

Additionally, different types of medications may be used to treat your disorder depending on its type and severity.