Personality Disorders

Personality disorders are characterized by long-standing, pervasive, and inflexible patterns of inner experience and behavior that deviate from the individual's cultural norms. These patterns may involve ways of thinking, mood, interpersonal relationships, and impulse control. Some of these patterns are similar to features of other mental disorders. The distinction between symptoms of a personality disorder and those of another mental disorder is the former's long-standing, pervasive, and inflexible nature. Like other mental disorders, personality disorders may cause the individual significant distress or create problems in one’s occupational, social, or other areas of life. Personality disorders are usually products of both the person’s biology and experience.

Personality disorders involve traits that tend to be stable over time. They tend to become apparent in early adulthood. It is rare for children to be diagnosed with personality disorders because those traits are still likely to change. The 12-month lifetime prevalence of any personality disorder is 9.1% in the U.S. adult population. There are also some gender differences. For example, men are more likely to be diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder while women are more likely to be diagnosed with borderline personality disorder.

There are ten personality disorders, but they can be categorized under three types, which are as follows.

Odd and Eccentric type

  • Paranoid: the individual is so suspicious that one interprets others' motives as ill willed.
  • Schizoid: the individual is detached from social relationships and does not show a lot of emotions.
  • Schizotypal: the individual is uncomfortable in (and therefore has difficulty forming) close relationships and exhibit distorted thinking and perceptions, as well as odd and eccentric behavior. Distortions in thoughts may involve thinking that everything happening in the world is related to the self. Distortions in perception may include feeling sensations that do not have apparent physical or external causes.

Dramatic, emotional, and erratic type

  • Antisocial: the individual disregards and violates other people’s rights and lacks empathy. These people are likely to become criminals.
  • Borderline: the individual has unstable interpersonal relationships, mood, and self-image. The individual also may demonstrate impulsive behavior, such as gambling or risky sexual activity.
  • Histrionic: the individual shows excessive levels of emotions and is attention-seeking.
  • Narcissistic: the individual has a grandiose sense of self-importance and need for admiration and lacks empathy.

Anxious and fearful type

  • Avoidant: the individual avoids activities involving a lot of interpersonal contact because of feelings of inadequacy and high sensitivity to criticisms.
  • Dependent: the individual has an excessive need to be taken care of, which leads to clinging behavior of people around him or her.
  • Obsessive-compulsive: the individual is so preoccupied with being perfect and orderly that one tries to control everything, often in narrow and inflexible ways.

You can learn in greater detail about the following personality disorders: