A personality disorder is a type of mental disorder in which you have a rigid and unhealthy pattern of thinking, functioning and behaving. A person with a personality disorder has trouble perceiving and relating to situations and to people. This causes significant problems and limitations in relationships, social encounters, work and school.
In some cases, you may not realize that you have a personality disorder because your way of thinking and behaving seems natural to you. And you may blame others for the challenges you face.
Personality disorders usually begin in the teenage years or early adulthood. There are many types of personality disorders. Some types may become less obvious throughout middle age.
Types of personality disorders are grouped into three clusters, based on similar characteristics and symptoms. Many people with one personality disorder also have signs and symptoms of at least one additional personality disorder.
Cluster A personality disorders are characterized by odd, eccentric thinking or behavior. They include paranoid personality disorder, schizoid personality disorder and schizotypal personality disorder. It's not necessary to exhibit all the signs and symptoms listed for a disorder to be diagnosed.
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. It's not necessary to exhibit all the signs and symptoms listed for a disorder to be diagnosed.
Cluster C personality disorders are characterized by anxious, fearful thinking or behavior. They include avoidant personality disorder, dependent personality disorder and obsessive-compulsive personality disorder. It's not necessary to exhibit all the signs and symptoms listed for a disorder to be diagnosed.
Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder isn't the same as obsessive-compulsive disorder, a type of anxiety disorder.
If you have any signs or symptoms of a personality disorder, see your doctor, mental health provider or other health care professional. Untreated, personality disorders can cause significant problems in your life that may get worse without treatment.
Personality is the combination of thoughts, emotions and behaviors that makes you unique. It's the way you view, understand and relate to the outside world, as well as how you see yourself. Personality forms during childhood, shaped through an interaction of two factors:
Personality disorders are thought to be caused by a combination of these genetic and environmental influences. Your genes may make you vulnerable to developing a personality disorder, and a life situation may trigger the actual development.
If your doctor suspects you have a personality disorder, exams and tests may include:
Sometimes it can be difficult to determine the type of personality disorder, as some personality disorders share similar symptoms. But it's worth the time and effort to get an accurate diagnosis so that you get appropriate treatment.
The symptoms and clinical features for each personality disorder are detailed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), published by the American Psychiatric Association. This book is used by mental health providers to diagnose mental disorders and by insurance companies to reimburse for treatment.
To be diagnosed with a particular personality disorder, you must meet DSM criteria. Each personality disorder has its own set of diagnostic criteria. However, generally the diagnosis of a personality disorder includes long-term marked deviation from cultural expectations that leads to significant distress or impairment in at least two of these areas:
Personality disorders can significantly disrupt the lives of both the affected person and those who care about that person. Personality disorders may cause problems with relationships, work or school, and can lead to social isolation or alcohol or substance abuse.
Along with your professional treatment plan, consider these lifestyle and self-care strategies:
Having a personality disorder makes it hard to engage in behavior and activities that may help you feel better. Ask your doctor or therapist how to improve your coping skills and get the support you need.
If you have a loved one with a personality disorder, work with his or her mental health provider to find out how you can most effectively offer support and encouragement.
You may also benefit from talking with a mental health provider about any distress you experience. A mental health provider can also help you develop boundaries and self-care strategies so that you're able to enjoy and succeed in your own life.
Although the precise cause of personality disorders isn't known, certain factors seem to increase the risk of developing or triggering personality disorders, including:
Personality disorders usually begin in the teen years or early adulthood.