A personality disorder may be present when a person's usual way of relating to others, thinking about the world, and reacting to events causes him or her to have problems that interfere with important areas of life, including relationships with other people.
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Paranoid personality disorder
Schizoid personality disorder
Schizotypal personality disorder
Antisocial personality disorder
Borderine personality disorder
Histronic personality disorder
Narcissistic personality disorder
Avoidant personality disorder
Dependent personality disorder
Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder
What Are Personality Disorders?
Personality, or personality style, is someone's usual pattern of thinking, feeling, and behaving. Personality style is made up of a number of personality traits or characteristics. A personality disorder is a problematic personality style that negatively affects most areas of a person's life. Personality disorders are diagnosed only in adults, but they reflect difficult personality styles that have been present since adolescence or young adulthood. Personality disorders can cause lifelong psychological problems and difficulty in relating to others.
There are 10 different personality disorders that mental health experts may diagnose. Each has its own set of characteristics, and each causes problems of a certain nature. The 10 personality disorders fall into three groups, called clusters, based on similarities in the personality traits of the disorders in each group.
One cluster includes personality disorders that feature unusual points of view or odd or eccentric behavior of various sorts. In this cluster are the following disorders:
- Paranoid: People with paranoid (PAIR-a-noyd) personality disorder distrust other people and may become overly suspicious, believing that other people's actions are always meant to harm them. Someone with paranoid personality disorder may find it difficult to form friendships, and may be very guarded, argumentative, or cold toward others.
- Schizoid: A person with schizoid (SKIT-zoyd) personality disorder is typically a loner and does not often show emotion. Such people will not make friends easily and do not even care to spend time with their families. A person with this disorder usually chooses a solitary job and activities and has very little, if any, social life.
- Schizotypal: People who have schizotypal (skit-zo-TIE-pal) disorder can be fearful and distrustful of others. They are usually unable to make friends outside their own families. They also can have strange beliefs and superstitions. Often, they will dress oddly or act in a peculiar way that does not seem to "fit in."
Another cluster includes personality disorders that feature personality styles that are overly dramatic, overly emotional, overly reactive, or unpredictable. In this cluster are the following disorders:
- Antisocial: A person with antisocial personality disorder is typically in trouble with the law and has no respect for the rights of other people. Such people frequently lie and cheat, and they try to take advantage of others for their own profit or enjoyment. They can be very irritable and often get into fights or even attack others. They also may be quite reckless and put themselves or others in danger, and they frequently do not understand or care that they have done something wrong or hurt another person.
- Borderline: A person with borderline personality disorder has difficulty being in relationships. People with this disorder fear that they will be abandoned, and the fear can become so strong that it makes them try to hurt or even kill themselves. Their relationships are often overly intense and they may be very demanding of the time and attention of anyone who is close to them. They may abruptly end relationships and can quickly and drastically change their views about their friends if they think their friends have let them down.
- Histrionic: Histrionic (his-tree-AH-nik) personality disorder makes people want to be the center of attention. To draw attention, people with this disorder can be very dramatic, often making up exaggerated stories about themselves. They flirt to attract people, and they may dress and act in a showy or overly sexy way. They may publicly exaggerate their emotions, perhaps through temper tantrums or fits of crying. People with this disorder can be too trusting of other people and too easily influenced by them.
- Narcissistic: People who have narcissistic (nar-se-SIS-tik) personality disorder are unusually self-concerned. They often exaggerate their talents and accomplishments. They think of themselves as superior to others, and they tend to imagine themselves as very wealthy or powerful or beautiful or intelligent. Because they feel that they are unique, they also need other people to admire them and to treat them as special. But they usually do not care much about the feelings or needs of other people. In fact, they often take advantage of other people to get what they want.
A third cluster includes difficult personalities that feature anxious, fearful, or extremely cautious behavior. In this cluster are the following disorders
- Avoidant: People with avoidant personality disorder fear criticism and disapproval, and for this reason they tend to steer clear of jobs or activities where they must work together with other people. They do not make new friends easily, and they typically are quiet and shy because they fear that other people will embarrass and make fun of them. They often feel out of place in social situations.
- Dependent: A person who has dependent personality disorder has a hard time making even small, everyday decisions, for example, what to wear. People with this disorder often rely on others to take care of them and make all their choices in life. When they are alone, they feel helpless, and they typically look around for someone to care for and support them.
- Obsessive-Compulsive: People with obsessive-compulsive (obSES-iv-kom-PUL-siv) personality disorder have a deep need for order and control. They pay close attention to rules, lists, and schedules, and they can be very hard on themselves when they do not meet their own high standards of perfection. Some may be incredibly neat and orderly, but others may tend to be pack rats, hoarding money or even saving worthless or unnecessary objects just in case they might need them one day. (Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder is not the same as obsessive-compulsive disorder.)
How Are Personality Disorders Diagnosed?
Personality disorders are difficult to diagnose. This is because many, if not all, of these sorts of traits also are found in normal personalities. A personality disorder is diagnosed only when a personality trait, or a set of traits, is present to such an extreme that it causes an individual to have problems almost every day in almost all interactions.
Several of the personality disorders have traits that overlap, making it difficult to tell one from another. Judging personality styles can be subjective, and different people may have different ideas about each personality style. Even experts may not agree about whether a certain trait in an individual is extreme or simply a variation of normal. Also, when some people have problems as a result of trauma or difficult events in their lives, they
What Causes Personality Disorders?
Since each personality disorder is different, there are separate theories about how each one may develop. There is still much to learn about the factors involved in each of these disorders. Most theories focus on a combination of inborn * traits and early experiences that influence and shape how someone begins to think, feel, and act.
* inborn means present from birth, or inherited.
How Are Personality Disorders Treated?
Because personality disorders can be so deeply ingrained and so longstanding, they are among the most difficult conditions to treat. People with personality disorders often resist change. Although some treatment methods can be effective, change may be slow and gradual. Treatment for personality disorders usually involves long-term talk therapy aimed at helping people understand how their particular pattern causes them trouble and then learning new ways to approach and solve specific problems.