May 29, 2023

Personality Disorders

woman with personality disorder
Personality disorders are mental health conditions that cause long-lasting problems with mood, behavior, and thinking patterns. These issues affect close to 10% of people in the U.S. and typically cause them significant stress. Personality disorders can adversely affect a person’s ability to interact with others and enjoy life. 

How Are People Affected by Personality Disorders?

Personality disorders often show up as problems at work or in personal relationships. They may also be observable as trouble managing emotions, controlling impulses, maintaining a positive self-image, or staying in touch with reality. 

Whether something is a personality disorder or just a “personality quirk” is often a matter of degree and the presence or absence of a pattern of behavior. 

What Causes Personality Disorders?

Researchers don’t know exactly what causes personality disorders. However, many speculate that the factors include:

  • Genetics
  • Traumatic experiences in childhood, including physical and verbal abuse
  • Brain differences, such as the volume of various brain regions
  • Cultural differences, as the incidence of some disorders varies significantly between countries

Types of Personality Disorders and Their Symptoms

There are several types of personality disorders. Healthcare professionals classify them into three “clusters” or categories based on the symptoms of the personality disorder. 

Cluster A personality disorders

This type of personality disorder is characterized by unusual thoughts and actions. Disorders in this grouping include:

  • Paranoid personality disorder. People experiencing this condition are deeply distrustful and suspicious of others with no apparent reason for these feelings. They may believe others are trying to damage their reputation or physically harm them.
  • Schizoid personality disorder. This disorder causes patients to have a narrow range of emotions in their interactions with others and a lack of interest in relationships. 
  • Schizotypal personality disorder. This condition involves being very uncomfortable with interpersonal relationships. Patients often have non-standard views of reality and exhibit unusual behaviors. 

Cluster B personality disorders

People with cluster B personality disorders have unstable, often intense emotions and behave erratically and impulsively. Specific conditions in this category include:

  • Borderline personality disorder (BPD). People with BPD experience low self-esteem, mood swings, and trouble regulating their emotions. As a result, they often have problems in their interpersonal relationships.
  • Antisocial personality disorder (ASPD). This condition is characterized by not following social norms, lacking respect for others, and breaking rules or laws. Patients may cause emotional or physical harm to others and be unconcerned with the consequences of their actions. 
  • Narcissistic personality disorder. People with this disorder see themselves as superior to others, lack empathy, and have an excessive need for praise. Ironically, the condition may stem from low self-confidence and self-esteem. 
  • Histrionic personality disorder. This disorder causes a distorted self-image, volatile, intense emotions, and a strong need for approval from others. It may cause a person to exhibit dramatic behaviors to get attention. 

Cluster C personality disorders

Cluster C personality disorders are characterized by intense fears and severe anxiety. They include:

  • Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD). People with OCPD have an overwhelming need for the world to be orderly and flawless and seek to achieve those goals by being highly controlling and inflexible. This approach makes it difficult to complete tasks or have healthy relationships. 
  • Dependent personality disorder. This disorder involves an excessive need to be cared for by others, submissiveness, separation anxiety, and the inability to make decisions. People with this condition typically establish a close relationship with someone and cling to them so that the person will take care of them.
  • Avoidant personality disorder. This condition causes people to feel inadequate and to be extremely sensitive to criticism or disapproval. They avoid social situations, fearing rejection. 

How Are Personality Disorders Diagnosed?

It can be challenging to diagnose personality disorders, mainly because people with them typically don’t believe they have a problem and don’t seek help. But in cases where someone talks with a healthcare professional, the provider bases their diagnosis on how reported and observed symptoms align with the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders

Because someone with a personality disorder may be unable to be objective about their symptoms, mental health experts often work with family members and friends to get a holistic understanding of the person’s behaviors. 

How Are Personality Disorders Treated?

Treatment can help reduce the symptoms of personality disorders. Mental health professionals most often use psychotherapy (or “talk therapy”) to treat these conditions. 

There are multiple types of talk therapy (cognitive-behavioral therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, etc.). A doctor determines which is likely to provide the best outcome for their patient based on their diagnosis and specific symptoms. 

Get Help with Personality Disorders From Baptist Health

If you or a friend or family member is experiencing symptoms of a personality disorder, Baptist Health can help. And the sooner treatment begins, the less disruption the problem will cause. 

Talk with your Baptist Health doctor today. They can diagnose your condition and help you access the services of our behavioral health experts. 

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