What Is a Personality Disorder?
Personality disorders are a group of mental health conditions
that are characterized by inflexible and unhealthy patterns of thinking, feeling,
and behaving. These inner experiences and behaviors often differ from the
expectations of the culture in which someone lives.
People with personality disorders usually have a hard time
getting along with others and dealing with everyday problems in the ways that
are expected by a cultural group. They commonly believe that their way of
thinking and behaving is completely normal. However, they tend to have a view
of the world that is quite different than others. As a result, they may find it
difficult to participate in social, educational, and family activities. They
also place blame on others for their challenges. These behaviors and attitudes
often cause problems and limitations in relationships, social encounters, and
work or school settings. They may also make people with personality disorders
feel isolated, which can contribute to depression and anxiety.
The cause of personality disorders isn’t known. However, it is
believed that they may be triggered by genetic and environmental influences,
most prominently childhood trauma.
Personality disorders tend to emerge in the teenage years or
early adulthood. The symptoms vary depending on the specific type of
personality disorder. Treatment typically includes talk therapy and medication.
What Are the Different Types of Personality Disorders?
There are numerous different types of personality disorders. They
are grouped into three clusters based on similar characteristics and symptoms. Some
people may have signs and symptoms of multiple personality disorders.
Cluster A: Suspicious
personality disorder: People with paranoid personality disorder are very
distrustful of others and suspicious
of their motives. They also tend to hold grudges.
personality disorder: People with this type of disorder display little
interest in forming personal relationships or partaking in social interactions.
They usually don’t pick up on normal social cues, so they can seem emotionally
personality disorder: In schizotypal personality disorder, people believe
they can influence other people or events with their thoughts. They often
misinterpret behaviors. This causes them to have inappropriate emotional
responses. They may consistently avoid having intimate relationships.
Cluster B: Emotional and Impulsive
- Antisocial personality disorder: People with antisocial personality disorder tend to
manipulate or treat others harshly without expressing remorse for their actions.
They may lie, steal, or abuse alcohol or drugs.
personality disorder: People with this type of disorder often feel empty
and abandoned, regardless of family or community support. They may have
difficulty dealing with stressful events. They may have episodes of paranoia. They
also tend to engage in risky and impulsive behavior, such as unsafe sex, binge
drinking, and gambling.
personality disorder: In histrionic personality disorder, people frequently
try to gain more attention by being overly dramatic or sexually provocative. They
are easily influenced by other people and are extremely sensitive to criticism
personality disorder: People with narcissistic personality disorder believe
that they are more important than others. They tend to exaggerate their
achievements and may brag about their attractiveness or success. They have a
deep need for admiration, but lack empathy for other people.
Cluster C: Anxious
personality disorder: People
with this type of disorder often experience feelings of inadequacy, inferiority or unattractiveness. They
usually dwell on criticism from others and avoid participating in new
activities or making new friends.
personality disorder: In dependent personality disorder, people heavily
depend on other people to meet their emotional and physical needs. They usually
avoid being alone. They regularly need
reassurance when making decisions. They may also be likely to tolerate physical
and verbal abuse.
personality disorder: People with obsessive-compulsive personality disorder
have an overwhelming need for order. They strongly adhere to rules and
regulations. They feel extremely uncomfortable when perfection isn’t achieved. They
may even neglect personal relationships to focus on making a project perfect.
How Is a Personality Disorder Diagnosed?
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental
Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), is a reference doctors and mental health
professionals use to help diagnose mental health conditions. Each personality
disorder has criteria that must be met for a diagnosis. A primary care or
mental health provider will ask you questions based on these criteria to
determine the type of personality disorder. In order for a diagnosis to be
made, the behaviors and feelings must be consistent across many life
circumstances. They should also cause significant distress and impairment in at least two of the following areas:
- the way you perceive
or interpret yourself and other people
- the way you act
when dealing with other people
appropriateness of your emotional responses
- how well you can
control your impulses
In some cases, your primary care
or mental health provider may perform blood tests to determine whether a medical
problem is causing your symptoms. They may also order a screening test for alcohol and drugs.
How Is a Personality Disorder Treated?
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 different types of
psychotherapy. Dialectical behavior therapy can include group and individual
sessions where people learn how to tolerate stress and improve relationships.
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 drugs approved
for the treatment of personality disorders. However, certain types of
prescription medications might be helpful in reducing various personality
which can help improve a depressed mood, anger, or impulsivity
- mood stabilizers,
which prevent mood swings and reduce irritability and aggression
medications, also known as neuroleptics, which may be beneficial for people who
often lose touch with reality
medications, which help relieve anxiety, agitation, and insomnia
What Is the Outlook for Someone with a Personality Disorder?
The most important aspect of treating a personality disorder is
the recognition that the problem exists in the first place. People with these
types of disorders believe that their personality traits are normal, so they
can become quite upset when someone suggests that they may have a personality
If someone recognizes that they have a personality disorder and
engages in treatment, they should see an improvement in their symptoms. It’s
beneficial for friends or family members to be involved in their therapy
sessions as well. It’s also important for someone with a personality disorder to
avoid drinking alcohol and using illicit drugs. These substances can have a
negative impact on emotions and interfere with treatment.
How to Help Someone with a Personality Disorder
If you are close to someone you suspect might have a personality
disorder, you should encourage them to seek help. They may get angry or
defensive, but it’s important to avoid arguing with them. Instead, focus on
expressing your feelings and voicing your concerns about their behaviors.
Call 911 if you ever feel that the other person intends to cause
harm to themselves or others. It is also beneficial to tell your friend or
loved one about the National
Suicide Prevention Lifeline. This free, 24-hour phone line takes calls from
anyone feeling depressed or anxious. A friendly, supportive voice can help them
work through a difficult time or crisis.