Do interactions with a loved one, neighbor or co-worker often leave you feeling exasperated and confused? Do you walk on eggshells or feel constantly on guard? If so, a personality disorder might be to blame. Read on to learn the signs.
What are personality disorders?
A personality disorder is a mental health disorder characterized by a persistent and pervasive pattern of perceiving and reacting to the world that causes significant problems or distress.
For people with personality disorders, their symptoms make it difficult for them to maintain healthy, satisfying relationships and may impair their functioning at work or in other important areas.
Sadly, the nature of a personality disorder makes it tough for people to see that their symptoms cause problems. They may recognize that things aren’t going their way, but attribute the fault to others rather than to their own perceptions and responses. Consequently, someone with a personality disorder may not seek help without encouragement.
Top signs of a personality disorder
It’s important to know that there’s a difference between a personality disorder and a personality type. A person can be shy, flamboyant or overly self-confident without having a personality disorder. Diagnosis requires a professional evaluation.
However, if you frequently and consistently observe these signs in someone close to you, they may have a personality disorder or significant traits of one.
- Erratic, confusing and frustrating behavior
- Trouble understanding helpful ways to treat other people
- Lack of insight into how their behavior creates problems for themselves or others
- A detached, abusive, overemotional or irresponsible parenting style (if they have children)
Types of personality disorders
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) lists 10 types of personality disorders broken into three clusters. The descriptions below are intended to give you a brief overview of each disorder. If you’d like to read more, Mayo Clinic offers comprehensive information about specific symptoms of each disorder.
Characterized by odd and eccentric thinking or behavior, this cluster includes:
Paranoid personality disorder
People with this disorder persistently distrust and feel suspicious of others without adequate reason. They may misinterpret innocent remarks or situations as insults or attacks and react angrily to them.
Schizoid personality disorder
People with this condition avoid social activities, have trouble expressing emotions and may seem emotionally cold or flat. They probably don’t enjoy or desire relationships.
Schizotypal personality disorder
People with this disorder experience distorted perceptions or cognitions and display eccentric behavior. They may feel uncomfortable relating to other people because they think they’re different and don’t belong.
Characterized by dramatic, overly emotional or unpredictable thinking or behavior, this cluster includes:
Antisocial personality disorder
People with this condition engage in reckless, manipulative and deceitful behavior without regard for other people’s feelings. Popular media sometimes calls this sociopathy.
Borderline personality disorder
People with BPD have trouble regulating their emotions which may cause them to act impulsively and do things that harm themselves or their relationships. They may experience intense fears of abandonment and have difficulty tolerating time alone.
Histrionic personality disorder
People with this disorder display a pattern of unstable emotions and an overwhelming desire for attention. Their self-esteem depends on approval from others, and they often behave dramatically or inappropriately to get attention.
Narcissistic personality disorder
People with NPD have an inflated sense of self-importance, require excessive admiration, and may lack the ability to understand or care about other people’s feelings. However, behind the mask of exaggerated self-confidence, they may feel unsure of their self-worth and easily hurt by criticism.
Characterized by anxious, fearful thinking or behavior, this cluster includes:
Avoidant personality disorder
People with this disorder feel so intensely inadequate that they assume others will judge them harshly or reject them. They’re also hypersensitive to negative evaluation. Even though they’d like to make friends and engage with people, they often avoid situations in which rejection or ridicule might occur.
Dependent personality disorder
People with this condition feel incapable of taking care of themselves and may have trouble making simple decisions (like what to wear or eat) without reassurance.
Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder
People with OCPD feel intensely preoccupied with perfection, organization, control and specific ways of doing things. Their perfectionism may interfere with completing tasks and their rigidity often impacts their relationships.
Treatment for personality disorders
Fortunately, treatment can help improve symptoms of many personality disorders.
Psychotherapy is the primary way to treat personality disorders, and different personality disorders will require different types of psychotherapy. For example, dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is effective for treating borderline personality disorder while cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) may work better for treating avoidant personality disorder.
Medications aren’t currently approved to treat personality disorders. However, medications such as antidepressants, mood stabilizers, antipsychotic medications or anti-anxiety medications can improve symptoms that often go along with specific personality disorders.
If you think someone you love might have a personality disorder, encourage them to seek a professional evaluation. The nature of personality disorders makes it tough for people to recognize their own symptoms or the ways in which those symptoms create challenges for themselves and others. They may have trouble connecting the dots and seeking help without your encouragement.
If you or someone you love would benefit from talking to a mental health professional call your doctor or contact Athena Care, for mental health care in Tennessee.
One of our Care Coordinators will help you get the care you need.
Rachel Swan, MS
Rachel has a Masters of Science in Clinical Psychology from Vanderbilt University, where she spent 16 years as a Research Analyst in the Psychology and Human Development Department.