What are Personality Disorders? (2023)

Personality disorders are a group of mental health conditions that are characterized by inflexible and atypical patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving. These inner experiences and behaviors often differ from the expectations of the culture in which someone lives.

If you have a personality disorder, you may have a difficult time relating to others and dealing with everyday problems in the ways that are expected by your cultural group. You may not be fully aware of this discrepancy between your thoughts and behaviors and those accepted by society.

You may have a view of the world that’s quite different than that of others. As a result, you could find it difficult to participate in social, educational, and family activities.

These behaviors and attitudes often cause problems and limitations in relationships, social encounters, and work or school settings. They may also make people you feel isolated, which can contribute to depression and anxiety.

Personality disorders are treatable, however. Often a combination of talk therapy and medication can go a long way in helping you live with one of these conditions.

What causes personality disorders?

(Video) EYPU - What is 'personality disorder'?

The cause of personality disorders isn’t known. However, it’s 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. For all of them, treatment typically includes talk therapy and medication.

There are numerous types of personality disorders. They’re grouped into three clusters based on similar characteristics and symptoms. Some people may have signs and symptoms of multiple personality disorders.

Cluster A: Suspicious

  • Paranoid personality disorder. People with paranoid personality disorder may be distrustful of others and suspicious of their motives.
  • Schizoid personality disorder. People with schizoid personality disorder can display little interest in forming personal relationships or partaking in social interactions. They can have trouble interpreting social cues, causing them to seem emotionally distant.
  • Schizotypal personality disorder. People with schizotypal personality disorder often believe that they can influence other people or events with their thoughts. They may misinterpret behaviors, leading to inappropriate emotional responses. They may also avoid having intimate relationships.

Cluster B: Emotional and impulsive

  • Antisocial personality disorder. People with antisocial personality disorder tend to manipulate or treat others without expressing remorse for their actions. They may engage in dishonest behavior like lying and stealing, and they may be prone to heavy alcohol and drug use.
  • Borderline personality disorder. People with borderline personality disorder often feel empty and abandoned, regardless of family or community support. They may have difficulty dealing with stressful events and have episodes of paranoia. They also tend to engage in risky and impulsive behavior, such as binge drinking and gambling.
  • Histrionic personality disorder. People with histrionic personality disorder frequently try to gain more attention by being dramatic or provocative. They may be easily influenced by other people and are sensitive to criticism or disapproval.
  • Narcissistic personality disorder. People with narcissistic personality disorder often believe that they’re more important than others. They tend to exaggerate their achievements and may brag about their attractiveness or success. Other symptoms include a deep need for admiration but lack empathy for other people.

Cluster C: Anxious

  • Avoidant personality disorder. People with avoidant personality disorder often experience feelings of inadequacy, inferiority, or unattractiveness. They may dwell on criticism from others and avoid participating in new activities or making new friends.
  • Dependent personality disorder. People with dependent personality disorder depend on other people to meet their emotional and physical needs. They usually avoid being alone and regularly need reassurance when making decisions. They may also be more likely to tolerate physical and verbal abuse.
  • Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder. People with obsessive-compulsive personality disorder have an overwhelming need for order. They strongly adhere to rules and regulations, and they feel extremely uncomfortable when perfection isn’t achieved. They may even neglect personal relationships to focus on making a project perfect.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), is a reference that doctors and mental health professionals use to help diagnose mental health conditions. Each personality disorder has criteria that must be met for a diagnosis.

(Video) Personality Disorders: Crash Course Psychology #34

A primary care doctor or mental health professional 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
  • the appropriateness of your emotional responses
  • how well you can control your impulses

In some cases, your primary care doctor or mental health professional may perform blood tests to determine whether a medical problem is causing your symptoms. In some cases, they may order a screening test for alcohol or drugs if they think substances are causing your symptoms.

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 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.

Online therapy options

Read our review of the best online therapy options to find the right fit for you.

(Video) The 4 Most Misunderstood Personality Disorders & How to Spot Them


There aren’t any medications approved for the treatment of personality disorders. However, certain types of prescription medications might be helpful in reducing various personality disorder symptoms, such as:

  • antidepressants, which can help improve a depressed mood, anger, or impulsivity
  • mood stabilizers, which prevent intense mood changes and reduce irritability and aggression
  • antipsychotic medications, also known as neuroleptics, which can help reduce symptoms of psychosis like hallucinations and delusions
  • anti-anxiety medications, which can help relieve anxiety, agitation, and insomnia

If you think someone may have symptoms of a personality disorder, or if they tell you that they think they do, encourage them to talk with a mental health professional. While voicing your concerns may cause tension, emphasize that your first priority is their well-being.

Call 911 or local emergency services if you ever feel that the other person intends to cause harm to themselves or others.

(Video) Personality Disorders

You can also provide your loved one with a list of crisis resources for when they need immediate support. Below are some hotlines and text lines that they can reach 24/7.

Crisis resources

The most important aspect of treating a personality disorder is determining the condition in the first place. When you recognize that you have a mental health condition, it will be easier for you to seek and stick with treatment.

Once you find a treatment that works for you, you should see an improvement in your symptoms.

(Video) Cluster B personality disorders - Are They Actually Mental Illness?

You may have to try a few different types of treatment to find what works best. That’s OK. What matters is that you find a good fit.


What are the 4 types of personality disorders? ›

Antisocial personality disorder (ASPD) Borderline personality disorder (BPD) Histrionic personality disorder. Narcissistic personality disorder.

What are the Big 5 personality disorders? ›

The Five Factor Model (FFM) of Personality, known as the “Big Five” model, is the most well-known model of personality (1). The five personality traits of the FFM are neuroticism, extraversion, openness, agreeableness, and conscientiousness.

What is personality disorder examples? ›

Cluster B personality disorders are characterized by dramatic, overly emotional or unpredictable thinking or behavior. They include antisocial personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, histrionic personality disorder and narcissistic personality disorder.

What is the #1 diagnosed personality disorder? ›

By some estimates, obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD) is the most common personality disorder. Around 1 in 100 individuals have OCPD, and it is diagnosed in twice as many men as women. OCPD is different from obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), Berrill explains.

What is the deadliest personality disorder? ›

If you think depression, schizophrenia, or bipolar disorder are the mental illnesses most commonly linked to an early death, you're wrong. Eating disorders—including anorexia nervosa, bulimia, and binge eating— are the most lethal mental health conditions, according to research in Current Psychiatry Reports.

How can you tell if someone has a personality disorder? ›

Some signs that a person has a personality disorder include:
  • frequent mood swings.
  • extreme dependence on other people.
  • narcissism (extreme vanity)
  • stormy personal relationships.
  • social isolation.
  • angry outbursts.
  • suspicion and mistrust of others.
  • difficulty making friends.

Is ADHD considered a personality disorder? ›

Borderline personality disorder (BPD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are both recognized mental health conditions. However, BPD is a personality disorder, while ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder.

What are the first signs of a personality disorder? ›

Common signs of a personality disorder include:
  • strange or erratic behaviour.
  • suspicion and distrust.
  • taking risks.
  • extreme mood swings (angry outbursts)
  • difficulty with relationships.
  • problems at school or work.
  • need for instant gratification.

What causes personality disorders? ›

Causes. It's not clear exactly what causes personality disorders, but they're thought to result from a combination of the genes a person inherits and early environmental influences – for example, a distressing childhood experience (such as abuse or neglect).

What are the top 10 personality disorders? ›

The Most Common Personality Disorders
  • Antisocial personality disorder.
  • Avoidant personality disorder.
  • Borderline personality disorder.
  • Dependent personality disorder.
  • Histrionic personality disorder.
  • Narcissistic personality disorder.
  • Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder.
  • Paranoid personality disorder.
Sep 9, 2021

How many personality disorders are there in total? ›

There are 10 specific types of personality disorders in the DSM-5-TR. Personality disorders are long-term patterns of behavior and inner experiences that differ significantly from what is expected.

What is the hardest mental illness to live with? ›

But in the shadows are a cluster of conditions that continue to face deep discrimination: schizophrenia, psychosis, bipolar disorder, and BPD. BPD in particular is one of the lesser-known mental illnesses, but all the same it is one of the hardest to reckon with.

How serious is a personality disorder? ›

A personality disorder is a mental health condition that involves long-lasting, all-encompassing, disruptive patterns of thinking, behavior, mood and relating to others. These patterns cause a person significant distress and/or impair their ability to function.

What is personality disorder called now? ›

Dissociative identity disorder used to be called multiple personality disorder (MPD). This is because many people experience the changes in parts of their identity as completely separate personalities in one body.

What personality disorder is no empathy? ›

Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is associated with an assortment of characteristics that undermine interpersonal functioning. A lack of empathy is often cited as the primary distinguishing feature of NPD.

What is it called when you make up stories in your head and believing them? ›

Delusional disorder is a type of mental health condition in which a person can't tell what's real from what's imagined. There are many types, including persecutory, jealous and grandiose types. It's treatable with psychotherapy and medication.

What disorders mimic narcissism? ›

Based on some overlapping symptoms, borderline personality disorder (BPD) and narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) are two mental health disorders that are often mistaken for one another.

What personality disorder do serial killers have? ›

As a psychoanalyst, Stone's specialty is personality disorders so it is not surprising that most of the mass murderers in his study were diagnosed with antisocial, psychopathic, narcissistic or paranoid personality disorder.

What are the top 3 rarest personality types? ›

The INFJ is the rarest personality type as it typically makes up around 2% of the population. Other rare types include INTJ 'the mastermind personality', the ENTJ 'the commander', the ENFJ 'the protagonist' and the ENTP 'the debater'.

Which personality disorder gets worse with age? ›

Personality disorders that are susceptible to worsening with age include paranoid, schizoid, schizotypal, obsessive compulsive, borderline, histrionic, narcissistic, avoidant, and dependent, Dr. Rosowsky said at a conference sponsored by the American Society on Aging.

How do personality disorders start? ›

Early life experiences

If you have been given a personality disorder diagnosis you are more likely than most people to have experienced difficult or traumatic experiences growing up, such as: neglect. losing a parent or experiencing a sudden bereavement. emotional, physical or sexual abuse.

What do personality disorders act like? ›

You may have strong emotions, mood swings, and feelings you can't cope if you live with BPD. You may feel anxious and distressed a lot of the time. You might have problems with how you see yourself and your identity. You may self-harm or use drugs and alcohol to cope with these feelings.

What is a personality disorder vs mental illness? ›

Key points. Mental illness is generally considered to cause impaired thinking and behavior without much personal control. People with personality disorders are often seen as having control over their own behavior, which frustrates family and friends.

What is a favorite person in quiet BPD? ›

A favorite person is the center of attention of an individual living with BPD. This means they consider this person as a trusted friend, confidant, and counselor all wrapped in one. Dr. Roberts notes that the person with BPD demonstrates an “anxious-preoccupied attachment style.”

Can ADHD turn into narcissism? ›

Results: Individuals diagnosed with childhood ADHD are at increased risk for personality disorders in late adolescence, specifically Borderline (OR = 13.16), Antisocial (OR = 3.03), Avoidant (OR = 9.77), and Narcissistic (OR = 8.69) personality disorders.

What are signs of borderline in childhood? ›

In fact, content analysis of DSM criteria by Geiger & Crick (2001) found five childhood indicators of BPD: hostile or paranoid worldview; impulsivity; intense, unstable or inappropriate emotion; excessively close relationships; and lack of sense of self.

How to deal with someone with a personality disorder? ›

But there are lots of positive things you can do to support them:
  1. Be patient.
  2. Don't judge.
  3. Be calm and consistent.
  4. Remind them of their positive traits.
  5. Set clear boundaries.
  6. Plan ahead.
  7. Learn their triggers.
  8. Provide distractions.

At what age do personality disorders manifest? ›

According to DSM-5, features of a personality disorder usually begin to manifest during adolescence and early adulthood. In earlier versions of DSM, a personality disorder could not be diagnosed in someone under age 18; however, DSM-5 now allows this diagnosis if the features have been present for at least one year.

How do you get checked for a personality disorder? ›

Personality disorders, including borderline personality disorder, are diagnosed based on a:
  1. Detailed interview with your doctor or mental health provider.
  2. Psychological evaluation that may include completing questionnaires.
  3. Medical history and exam.
  4. Discussion of your signs and symptoms.
Dec 13, 2022

Can personality disorder be cured? ›

While there isn't a cure for personality disorders, there are effective treatment methods out there for those who struggle with these conditions, such as therapy.

Are you born with a personality disorder or is it developed? ›

When you're born, you're not without personality — it exists in its fundamental form known as temperament. Your temperament, which consists of innate features like energy levels, mood and demeanor, and emotional responsiveness, can then drive the learning experiences that form your personality throughout life.

What personality type always has to be right? ›

ESTJs have a tendency to think they are always right and that their moral compass is objective, absolute and universal.

What disorder is most common? ›

The National Alliance of Mental Health reports that one in five adults in America experiences a mental illness in their lifetime. Right now, nearly 10 million Americans are living with a serious mental disorder. The most common are anxiety disorders major depression and bipolar disorder.

What personality type do narcissists hate? ›

Although they can be targeted, type A people can also become a narcissist's worst nightmare. One of the most important defenses against dark personalities is having strong boundaries yourself, and type A people are usually aware they have the right to build them.

What are the top 10 worst mental illnesses? ›

The top 10 mental health issues and illnesses include anxiety disorders, bipolar affective disorders, depression, dissociative disorders, eating disorders, paranoia, PTSD, psychosis, schizophrenia and OCD. One in four adult Americans will have a diagnosable mental disorder at any given time.

Are personality disorders inherited? ›

Research suggests that genetics, abuse and other factors contribute to the development of obsessive-compulsive, narcissistic or other personality disorders.

What are the 20 types of mental disorders? ›

  • Anxiety disorders.
  • Dissociative disorders.
  • Mood disorders.
  • Trauma and stressor related disorders.
  • Neuro-developmental disorders.
  • Sleep-wake disorders.
  • Neuro-cognitive disorders.
  • Substance-related and addictive disorders.

What are the 10 major personality disorders? ›

The main personality disorders in this category are listed below.
  • Paranoid personality disorder. ...
  • Schizoid personality disorder. ...
  • Schizotypal personality disorder. ...
  • Antisocial personality disorder. ...
  • Borderline personality disorder. ...
  • Histrionic personality disorder. ...
  • Narcissistic personality disorder. ...
  • Avoidant personality disorder.
Feb 2, 2023

What is the most difficult mental illness to treat? ›

Personality disorders are some of the most difficult disorders to treat in psychiatry. This is mainly because people with personality disorders don't think their behavior is problematic, so they don't often seek treatment.

What are the 7 major mental disorders? ›

What Are the 7 types of Mental Disorders?
  • Anxiety Disorders.
  • Mood Disorders.
  • Psychotic Disorders.
  • Eating Disorders.
  • Personality Disorders.
  • Dementia.
  • Autism.
Apr 6, 2021

What is the most popular disorder? ›

Impacting an estimated 300 million people, depression is the most-common mental disorder and generally affects women more often than men.

What mental illness gets worse with age? ›

Personality disorders that are susceptible to worsening with age include paranoid, schizoid, schizotypal, obsessive compulsive, borderline, histrionic, narcissistic, avoidant, and dependent, said Dr. Rosowsky, a geropsychologist in Needham, Mass.

What is walking dead syndrome? ›

People with Cotard's syndrome (also called walking corpse syndrome or Cotard's delusion) believe that parts of their body are missing, or that they are dying, dead, or don't exist. They may think nothing exists.

What are the big 3 mental disorders? ›

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), roughly 1 in every 5 Americans is currently living with a mental illness. Of those, the three most common diagnoses are anxiety disorders, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

What scares a narcissist the most? ›

Although narcissists act superior, entitled and boastful, underneath their larger-than-life facade lies their greatest fear: That they are ordinary. For narcissists, attention is like oxygen. Narcissists believe only special people get attention.

What are the 5 main habits of a narcissist? ›

Let's take a look at five of the most common characteristics of a narcissist in order to create awareness.
  • Inflated Ego. Those who suffer from narcissism usually seem themselves as superior to others. ...
  • Lack of Empathy. ...
  • Need for Attention. ...
  • Repressed Insecurities. ...
  • Few Boundaries.

What kind of parent raises a narcissist? ›

Cramer (2011) showed that children raised by authoritative and permissive parents (high responsiveness) exhibited more adaptive narcissistic tendencies, such as superiority and grandiosity, whereas children raised by authoritarian parents (low responsiveness) were less likely to exhibit such traits.


1. Are Personality Disorders Different From Mental Illness? | Kati Morton
(Kati Morton)
2. What is Narcissistic Personality Disorder?
(Psych Hub)
3. Rising Above Borderline Personality Disorders | Briden's Story
(Rogers Behavioral Health)
4. Learn About the 4 Types of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)
(Kati Morton)
5. Get to Know Personality Disorders and How Emotional Intelligence Can Help
(Dr. Daniel Fox)
6. 9 Criteria for Borderline Personality Disorder
(Psych Hub)


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