What Are Personality Disorders and How Do You Know if You Have One?

Author and Medical Reviewer
Dr. Jose Toledo

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We all have different ways of thinking, feeling, and behaving, and these unique traits and characteristics make us the extraordinary individuals we are. 

Most of us would agree that the world would likely be dull and colorless if we were all the same.

According to many psychologists, our feelings, thoughts, and behaviors contribute to how our personalities develop over time.

Different types of personality

For example, your characteristics and traits shape how you see the world, including your perceptions and beliefs and how you relate to others.

Once you reach adulthood, these unique personality features form a significant part of who you are.

Personality traits

You might imagine personality traits as sitting on a spectrum. For example, everyone has probably felt lonely, misunderstood, and jealous.

However, these feelings exist on a slightly manageable scale for most people.

The key word here is ”manageable”.

The ability to self-regulate

For instance, amid difficulty or crisis, you may acknowledge, rationalize and perhaps speak to a supportive family member or friend about your thoughts and feelings.

By doing so, you are making a healthy attempt at regulating your emotions, whether they be feelings of emptiness, self-doubt, or concerns in your relationships.

Self-awareness

In psychology, self-awareness can be a telltale sign that a person may not have a personality disorder.

This is because many people with personality disorders are unaware of how their behavior and interactions affect others (and even themselves).

If you think that your thoughts or behaviors are causing significant impairment or problems in your life, a mental health professional may diagnose you with a personality disorder.

How personality disorders can affect your life

No matter what type of personality disorder you have, you may find that your condition affects your thoughts, feelings, and how you behave, making it challenging to cope with daily life.

You might feel different from others – for example, your beliefs, perceptions, and how you deal with specific situations may differ entirely from how others respond.

This may cause confusion, isolation, and exhaustion as if you didn’t feel bad enough.

Co-occurring mental health problems

Psychologists report that the distress caused by personality disorders may trigger other mental health problems such as substance use disorders, depression, and anxiety.

Destructive coping mechanisms

It is not uncommon for people with personality disorders to engage in destructive coping mechanisms to alleviate the distress of problematic thoughts and behaviors.

Substance abuse

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This may include abusing drugs or alcohol and engaging in self-harm to cope with any unpleasant symptoms.

With approximately 1 in 20 people living with a personality disorder, you must understand the different personality disorders and their signs and symptoms to get the support you need.

What are the different types of personality disorders?

Mental health professionals use a system of diagnosis which identifies ten types of personality disorders (Mind, Personality disorders).

Personality disorders are grouped into three primary clusters:

  • Cluster A
  • Cluster B
  • Cluster C

Here we will examine each cluster in more detail.

Cluster A

Those with Cluster A personality disorders tend to have highly suspicious natures; this trait is ingrained in their personalities and can affect how they perceive others and the world around them.

The Cluster A personality disorders include:

  • Paranoid personality disorder
  • Schizoid personality disorder
  • Schizotypal personality disorder

Cluster B

People with Cluster B personality disorders tend to exhibit overly emotional, dramatic, and impulsive behaviors. Psychologists have identified four Cluster B personality disorders, including:

Cluster C

Those with Cluster C personality disorders tend to be highly anxious individuals; this trait underlines an individual’s characteristics, resulting in neurotic thoughts, emotions, and behaviors.

Psychologists have identified three Cluster C personality disorders, including:

Diagnostic criteria

It can be challenging for professionals to diagnose personality disorders as many factors contribute to how people think and behave.

However, each personality disorder has its own diagnostic criteria (Mind, Personality disorders).

Like any mental disorder, a person must meet some criteria to get a personality disorder diagnosis.

The criteria depend on the individual and will differ depending on the type of disorder, but typically a person must meet more than one or two criteria or symptoms.

What it means to experience a personality disorder

A personality disorder is considered ”a controversial diagnosis” in many circles.

Psychologists’ understanding of what it means to experience a personality disorder is constantly evolving (Mind, Personality disorders).

Many mental health professionals view personality disorders differently, and there has been much debate over using these terms or diagnostic labels.

Understanding the self

However, there is a universal understanding of how challenging it is for people to live with a personality disorder in the mental health community.

It would help if you remembered that you deserve empathy, support, and compassion no matter how you understand your condition or diagnosis.

Symptoms of personality disorders

If you think you (or a loved one) may have a personality disorder, you must speak to a mental health professional or doctor who can offer support and treatment.

Those who receive treatment for a personality disorder have more favorable outcomes than those who don’t.

Understanding the different types of personality disorders and their symptoms is pivotal to getting proper treatment and support.

Paranoid personality disorder

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People with paranoid personality disorder experience a wide range of different symptoms that can affect their daily lives.

Those with the condition may:

  • Find it hard to relax or unwind.
  • Find it hard to trust others; it’s not uncommon for people with this condition to think that others are using or taking advantage of them.
  • Struggle to be vulnerable or open up to others, including family members and friends
  • View everyday situations as dangerous or threatening (that others can’t see); this may include paranoia over innocent remarks or casual looks from others.

Living with these symptoms can be frightening and confusing, but support is available to help you cope.

Schizoid personality disorder

Studies show that people with schizoid personality disorder usually function relatively well.

Unlike some mental health conditions, people with this disorder do not usually experience psychotic symptoms.

However, a schizoid personality disorder may cause you to experience various thoughts and feelings, such as:

  • Preferring to be alone in your thoughts
  • Having no interest in sex or other pleasurable activities
  • Difficulty forming close relationships or bonds with others, you may struggle to relate to others and appear emotionally distant or cold.

Schizotypal personality disorder

We all have quirks and eccentricities; such traits make the world much more fun.

However, suppose your way of thinking or behaving affects how you relate to or connect with others. In that case, there’s a chance that you may be diagnosed with a schizotypal personality disorder.

Various symptoms

Many people report experiencing different symptoms of this condition, such as distorted perceptions or thoughts.

However, your experience might be wholly different from someone else with the same condition. For instance, it’s not uncommon for people with a schizotypal personality disorder to think and express themselves in ways other people might find ”unusual” or ”odd”.

Another indicator of this disorder is thinking that you can read minds or have a ”sixth sense” or special powers.

It’s also common for those with a schizotypal personality disorder to feel highly anxious and paranoid in social settings.

Antisocial personality disorder

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Those diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder usually exhibit reckless and impulsive behaviors. In addition, people with this disorder typically have little regard for the consequences of their behavior and how they affect others.

Symptoms of antisocial personality disorder include:

  • Lying to get what you want
  • Behaving aggressively and becoming easily frustrated and prone to violence
  • Acting selfishly without guilt or remorse
  • Blaming other people for your problems

Histrionic personality disorder

A histrionic personality disorder is marked by a profound need to be the center of attention.

People with this condition may experience anxiety or anger over being ignored.

Symptoms of histrionic personality disorder include:

  • Wanting to be noticed by others and worrying about your appearance
  • Getting quickly bored with ordinary routines
  • Behaving lively or over-dramatic
  • Being easily influenced by others.
  • Constantly needing to be the center of attention.

Borderline personality disorder

People with borderline personality disorder tend to feel anxious much of the time.

This distress can cause problems with your self-image and identity. Symptoms of borderline personality disorder include:

  • Significant mood swings – you may feel like you can’t cope with your symptoms.
  • Self-harm or substance abuse to cope with your distressing thoughts and emotions
  • Relationship problems
  • An inability to regulate your emotions

Narcissistic personality disorder

Narcisissm treatment

The most talked about personality disorder, especially in popular culture and online media platforms, is a narcissistic personality disorder.

People with this condition have a pervasive sense of self-importance and grandiosity.

This can affect their sense of self and relationships with others. 

Symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder include:

  • A strong sense of entitlement
  • A profound lack of empathy for others
  • A sense of superiority, believing you are more important or deserving of special treatment than others.
  • Hypersensitivity to criticism or remarks
  • Constantly needing admiration and attention from others.

Avoidant personality disorder

People with avoidant personality disorder tend to feel anxious and tense in social situations.

The core features of this disorder involve a deep-seated fear of rejection and inferiority. Additional symptoms of avoidant personality disorder include:

  • Worrying about being ridiculed or shamed by others
  • Feeling isolated and lonely.
  • Expecting to be criticized and judged by others
  • Avoiding work or social situations that require you to be around other people
  • Avoiding relationships, friendships, and intimacy out of fear of rejection

Dependent personality disorder

People with dependent personality disorder tend to be passive and allow others to take responsibility for parts of their life.

They do not enjoy doing things alone and might not have much self-esteem and confidence. 

Other symptoms of dependent personality disorder include:

  • Putting other people’s needs ahead of your own
  • Fearing rejection or abandonment and feeling hopeless that you may end up alone
  • Letting others make all your decisions for you
  • Low self-esteem
  • Feeling needy, clingy, or ”weak” and unable to make decisions or get through the day without support from others.
  • Agreeing to things that you do not want to do to avoid being alone or losing someone’s help and support

Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder

The core components of obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD) include perfectionism, inflexibility, and the need to always be in control.

Symptoms of obsessive-compulsive personality disorder include:

  • Worrying that you (or others) will make a mistake
  • Experiencing significant anxiety if things aren’t perfect or don’t go to plan
  • Setting unrealistically high standards for yourself and others.
  • Needing to have order and control at all times

Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD) differs from obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

People with OCPD may think that their behavior is acceptable or healthy, whereas those with OCD tend to acknowledge that their behavior is irrational.

How Tikvah Lake Recovery can help

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Many people with personality disorders respond well to specific treatments such as ”talking therapies”.

Treatment options for personality disorders are constantly developing.

Although treatment will depend on the type of personality disorder you have, studies show that the following treatments are effective in treating all kinds of personality disorders:

We specialize in treating various mental health disorders and addictions at Tikvah Lake Recovery.

Our treatment programs include residential treatment, holistic wellness, cognitive behavioral therapy, detox management, and aftercare support.

All our staff has worked with people from many backgrounds and experiences treating various disorders and issues.

Our specialists have the unique ability to provide unparalleled compassion, support, and empathy to each individual.

If you think you may have personality disorder symptoms, contact a team member today who can help.

Additional resources

  1. What types of personality disorders are there? Mind 
  2. Personality disorders: Rethink Mental Illness

About Adam Nesenoff

Adam Nesenoff has been working in recovery for over ten years.

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