A personality disorder is a type of mental disorder characterized by unhealthy thinking patterns, modes of functioning and behaving. Main issues stem from the sufferer’s inability to properly perceive surroundings and people, and consequently has difficulty in relating to them. Recognition of one’s illness may sometimes be impaired due to the disorder’s symptoms in themselves, which are responsible for determining the inability to recognize one’s rigid behavior and inflexible mindset, often blaming others as the cause of the disruptive behavior.

Causes

Personality is a complex intertwining of thoughts, behaviors and emotions that are different form individual to individual, largely shaped in various proportions by both genetics and the environment alike

Genetics play a major role in raising the chances of transmitting the genes influencing temperament to future generations

The environment is comprised of various surroundings, occurring events, relationships with friends and family, all constituting possible sites responsible for the onset of personality disorders:

Family history of personality disorders or other types of mental illnesses

Verbal, physical or sexual abuse during childhood

Neglect or an unstable childhood environment

Variations in brain chemistry and structure

Symptoms and signs

Personality disorders are grouped into three main clusters, based on similar features and resulting behavior

Many people diagnosed with a type from one particular cluster may exhibit symptoms common to other types as well

 

Cluster A personality disorders:

Characterized by odd or eccentric behavior

Includes: paranoid personality disorder, schizoid and schizotypal disorders

For a diagnosis to be established one need not exhibit all signs and symptoms

 

Schizoid personality disorder:

Lack of interest in participating in social events or personal relationships

Preference for solitude

Limited range of emotional expression

Inability to take pleasure in most activities, including sex

Inability to distinguish normal social cues

Appearance of being cold or indifferent to others

 

Schizotypal personality disorder:

Preferring solitude, lacking close friends outside immediate family members

False interpretations of events and the persistent feeling of external events having personal meaning

Eccentric ways of thinking, behaving, acting and dressing

Belief in peculiar, ‘magical’ topics such as telepathy

Perceptual hallucinations, in some cases bodily illusions such as phantom pains

Persistent and intense social anxiety

Oddly rambling during conversations, vague patterns of speech

Paranoid ideas, hypersensitivity and constant doubting of people’s loyalty

Exhibiting either flat emotions or inappropriate outbursts

 

Cluster B personality disorders:

Characterized by dramatic, emotional intensity and unpredictable reasoning and choice of action

Includes: antisocial personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, histrionic personality disorder, and narcissistic personality disorder

 

Antisocial personality disorder:

Disregard for others’ needs or feelings

Persistent lying and stealing, and subsequent lack of remorse

Recurring problems with the law

Repeated violation of the rights of others

Aggressive, often violent behavior

Disregard for the safety of oneself or for the safety of others

Irresponsibility and impulsivity

 

Borderline personality disorder:

Alternating manic and depressive episodes

Impulsive and risky behavior (unsafe sex, gambling, binge eating)

Unstable or fragile self-image

Intense and unpredictable reactions

Difficult relationships

Extreme moodiness

Suicidal behavior or threats of self-injury

Intense feelings of loneliness and abandonment

Ongoing feelings of emptiness

Angry outbursts

Discontinuous stress-related paranoia

 

Narcissistic personality disorder:

Extreme arrogance

Belief in one’s superiority and importance

Often fantasizing about power, attractiveness and overall success

Failure to recognize others’ worth, expectations and needs

Exaggerated bragging

Expectation of constant success and rewards for achievements

Unreasonable expectations of others, often taking advantage of people

Expectance of advantages and favors

Envy of others’ success or belief that others are envious

 

Cluster C personality disorders:

Characterized by anxious, fearful thinking and mode of action

Includes: avoidant personality disorder, dependent personality disorder, and obsessive-compulsive personality disorder

 

Avoidant personality disorder usually entails an extreme sensitivity to criticism and rejection, often feeling inadequate, inferior or unattractive, and extremely timid of social situations or work related activities that involve direct contact with others

 

Dependent personality disorder usually entails an excessive dependence on others, submissive behavior, fear or being able to take care of oneself, lack of self-confidence, difficulty disagreeing with others and tolerance to abusive relationships

Advice

The treatment most likely to be beneficial depends on the personal assessment of one’s illness by a doctor, depending on the particular disorder, degree of severity, and individual environment

Treatment may necessitate medications, psychotherapy and hospitalization

Psychotherapy:

Main form of treatment aiming to provide insight into each individual’s personal history of the illness and finding ways to cope with and reduce symptoms and behaviors interfering with self-management and relations with others

Psychotherapy may come in the form of individual, group or family sessions

Medications:

There are no medications specifically approved to treat personality disorders, yet several can be used to ameliorate certain symptoms:

Antidepressants

Mood stabilizers

Antipsychotic medications

Anti-anxiety medications

Hospitalization programs may be in order in cases of severe manifestations of signs and symptoms, posing a threat to either oneself or others

MISCONCEPTIONS
  • Mental illness is related to a low IQ – there is a difference between low-functioning and high-functioning sufferers, but a lack of intelligence is not in question

    Bipolar disorder is diagnosed only in women, while narcissistic and antisocial disorders only in men – both men and women can be diagnosed with any mental disorder, though certain preponderances due to sex have been observed

    All people with personality disorders were abused as children

    Personality disorders are not real illnesses – there are neurological differences between patients and healthy individuals

    Personality disorders are either seen as easy to cure if one is willing to try harder or incurable altogether

    All sufferers will ultimately resort to suicide

Statistics

About 75% of people diagnosed with a personality disorder have been verbally, physically or sexually assaulted as children, meaning that approximately 1 in 4 has not suffered any kind of abuse

 

Researchers found that the prevalence for any personality disorder in the United States is 9.1 % (2007 study)

 

Patients were more likely to receive treatment from general medical practitioners than mental health specialists

 

On average, patients sought medical treatment about two times per week

 

Personality disorders are diagnosed in 40-60% of psychiatric patients, making them the most frequent of all psychiatric diagnoses

 

Personality disorders are likely to occur with either major mental disorders, attention deficit disorders or substance abuse

Did you know?

Personality disorders usually begin during teenage years or early adulthood

 

In some cases, signs ameliorate with age

 

(In)famous personalities thought to have exhibited signs of certain personality disorders: Adolf Hitler presumed paranoid and narcissistic personality disorders, Marilyn Monroe presumed borderline personality disorder, Steve Jobs obsessive-compulsive personality disorder, Anna Nicole Smith presumed histrionic personality disorder