Personality Disorders

Personality disorder is a general term related to long-term and inflexible patterns, thoughts or actions that are deeply ingrained within an individual, and can be significantly different form the norms or behavior expected within that individual’s culture. There are a number of types of personality disorders which are commonly clustered into three categories:

  • Cluster A includes paranoid, schizoid, and schizotypal personality disorders with general behavioral characteristics of appearing odd or eccentric.
  • Cluster B includes antisocial, borderline personality disorder, histrionic, and narcissistic personality disorders with general behavioral characteristics of appearing erratic, dramatic, or emotional.
  • Cluster C includes avoidant, dependent, and obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (this is different than obsessive-compulsive disorder, or OCD) with general behavioral characteristics of appearing anxious or fearful.

A percent of individuals with a personality disorder in one cluster can also have a personality disorder from another cluster.  They may also experience other mental health disorders such as bipolar disorder, anxiety, or depression.  It is estimated that about 15% of the U.S. adult population has at least one personality disorder according to a 2001-2002 survey by the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions. 

Typically, the onset of a personality disorder happens during adolescence or early adulthood. It remains stable over time and results in some type of impairment or distress.  Since the symptoms are somewhat difficult to isolate, they often go undiagnosed or misdiagnosed. Symptoms can also overlap with another disorder such as between borderline personality disorder and bipolar disorder making diagnosis challenging.  Symptoms differ depending on the type of personality disorder but an individual may be distrustful or naturally suspicious, hostile, unable to pick up on social cues, have flat or inappropriate emotions or responses, or the opposite and be highly reactive, be untruthful, and even display criminal behavior such as theft or violence without remorse.

Treatment may require months or years due to the long-standing nature of a personality disorder.  It can include a combination of psychotherapy and medications under the careful supervision of a medical professional. However, at this time it should be noted that there are no medications approved specifically by the FDA to treat a personality disorder.  Medical professionals have found that antidepressants, mood stabilizers, antipsychotic medications, and anti-anxiety medications can help with various symptoms. In severe cases, a period of hospitalization may be helpful for the patient to work through suicidal thoughts or a propensity to harm others. While the resources and articles provided here will hopefully help you to better understand personality disorders, we encourage you to seek the advice of a professional if you have concerns about yourself or someone you love.


The above summary by WebPsychology.