Personality disorders are mental health disorders that feature maladaptive patterns of behaving, thinking, and functioning. A personality disorder can be highly disruptive to daily functioning and interpersonal relating, affecting all aspects of life. In general, a personality disorder will first emerge during adolescence or early adulthood. Although the cause of personality disorders is still largely unknown, there is evidence that the following factors may contribute:
A personality disorder can impact the way a person manages stressful events or relationship issues, and can result in emotional turmoil for both the individual with the disorder and for those close to them.
There are three different types, or clusters, used to categorize personality disorders:
Cluster A personality disorders
- Paranoid personality disorder. Characterized by trust issues, believe they are being observed or followed, look for hidden messages in conversations, highly suspicious of other people’s motives, sensitive to criticism or perceived insults, and a tendency to hold grudges.
- Schizoid personality disorder. Appear cold and emotionally detached, prefer to be alone, limited ability to experience joy or pleasure, not interested in forming close relationships, socially awkward, little interest in physical intimacy, and a limited range of emotion.
- Schizotypal personality disorder. Features delusional thinking, poor social skills, express themselves in an eccentric or odd manner, flat emotions, inappropriate responses, see hidden messages or meaning in ordinary incidents, believe to have magical thinking skills.
- Cluster B personality disorders
- Antisocial personality disorder. Characterized by bullying or intimidating behavior, lack of conscience about their actions, impulsivity, engage in risk-taking behaviors, easily bored, get in trouble with the law, irresponsible behavior, disregard for other people’s feelings, and aggressive or violent behavior.
- Borderline personality disorder. Features deep fear of abandonment, extreme mood swings, impulsive behaviors, interpersonal struggles, self-harming behaviors or suicidal ideation, frequent angry outbursts, fragile self-image, feelings of emptiness, and risky behaviors.
- Histrionic personality disorder. Characterized by constant attention seeking, is easily influenced by others, excessive concern about appearance, excessive dramatic gestures or boisterous, seek constant approval, opinionated, and shallow.
- Narcissistic personality disorder. Features an inflated view of self, arrogance, lack compassion or empathy, no regard for hurting others’ feelings, take advantage of those they perceive as weak or inferior to them, and expect praise and adulation.
Cluster C personality disorders
- Avoidant personality disorder. Will avoid any form of social activity or socializing, feel inadequate, fear rejection by peers, anticipate being ridiculed or embarrassed by others, shy, and lonely.
- Dependent personality disorder. Characterized by feeling needy and weak, prefers others to take control of their responsibilities for them, low self-esteem, cannot stand to be alone, difficulty disagreeing with others, passive, lacks confidence, and clingy behavior.
- Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder. Features a preoccupation with rules and order, controlling of others, hoarding tendencies, rigidity in morality, miserly, excessive commitment to work or duties, perfectionism, and stubborn.
Comprehensive Treatment for Personality Disorders
Treatment for a personality disorder is available in various levels of care, including day treatment (partial hospitalization outpatient program), residential treatment, or temporary hospitalization for severe disorders. A two-pronged approach to treatment includes:
Medication: While there is no specific medication for a personality disorder, there are various psychotropic drugs that can help moderate the symptoms. These include antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications, mood stabilizers, and antipsychotic drugs.
Psychotherapy: Individuals with a personality disorder benefit from long-term psychotherapy. While psychodynamic therapy is foundational in the treatment of personality disorder, other types of therapy can help the individual improve social skills, conflict resolution, and reduce stress.
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