Personality Disorder

Written by Elea Carey | Published on July 31, 2012
Medically Reviewed by George Krucik, MD

What Is a Personality Disorder?

Everyone has problems getting along with other people some of the time. Personality disorder is a term for several behavior patterns that make it consistently difficult for people to get along with others, regardless of the circumstances.

What Are the Types of Personality Disorders and What Are the Symptoms of Each?

People who suffer from a personality disorder have problems maintaining healthy relationships. Sufferers commonly blame other people or circumstances for problems they have created. This combination of difficulties leads to a sense of loneliness and isolation.

Antisocial Personality Disorder

People with antisocial personality disorder:

  • do not obey rules
  • show no regard for the feelings of others
  • can be aggressive and violent
  • are at risk for alcohol and drug abuse
  • are often in trouble with the law

Avoidant Personality Disorder

People with avoidant personality disorder:

  • may exhibit extreme shyness
  • are fearful of rejection
  • avoid relationships outside the family

Borderline Personality Disorder

People with borderline personality disorder:

  • may suffer from extreme mood changes, swinging from being unrealistically happy to feeling extremely depressed
  • may choose inappropriate friendships from a fear of being alone
  • sometimes cut or burn themselves on purpose
  • are more likely to threaten to kill themselves than people who suffer from other personality disorders

Dependent Personality Disorder

People with dependent personality disorder:

  • are more commonly women than men
  • may have an extreme fear of being alone
  • have difficulty making or refuse to make decisions

Narcissistic Personality Disorder

People with narcissistic personality disorder:

  • constantly seek attention
  • imagine unrealistic personal success
  • have difficulty talking about anyone but themselves
  • are manipulative in relationships

Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder

People with obsessive-compulsive personality disorder:

  • are perfectionists
  • are often very responsible, but can drive others away
  • are inflexible
  • have difficulty adapting to change

Paranoid Personality Disorder

People with paranoid personality disorder:

  • are constantly threatened by the actions of others
  • are unforgiving
  • have explosive tempers

Schizoid Personality Disorder

People with schizoid personality disorder:

  • are withdrawn and distant
  • are preoccupied with their own thoughts
  • are fearful of close relationships

Schizotypal Personality Disorder

People with schizotypal personality disorder:

  • may be eccentric in their manners or clothing
  • are socially anxious
  • hold strange beliefs
  • may talk to themselves

Culture and Personality Disorders

Standards of behavior are different all over the world. Good friends can have very different behaviors and beliefs, even in our own communities. Just because someone is different doesn’t mean he or she has a personality disorder. The main characteristic of a personality disorder is the inability to maintain healthy relationships.

Children and Personality Disorders

Personality disorders are rarely diagnosed in children. This is because children’s personalities are changing and developing as they grow. Kids can exhibit characteristics of a personality disorder but mature beyond that behavior. Suddenly making and breaking a close friendship may be a sign of borderline personality disorder. However, this is quite common behavior in teenagers. Personality disorders are most accurately diagnosed in people older than 21.

What Treatments Are Available for People With Personality Disorders?

People who suffer from a personality disorder rarely seek treatment on their own. That is because they commonly blame other people and outside circumstances for problems they create. People with personality disorders are sometimes forced to seek treatment as a consequence of their behavior. Someone who shows signs of antisocial personality disorder, for example, might be arrested for fighting and ordered by a judge to get treatment.

Treatment for personality disorders can be very successful. Treatments often include combining prescription medications with psychological counseling. Prescription medications could include antidepressants or antianxiety drugs. The most important thing is to continue treatment even when you begin to feel better. The personality disorder is manageable but it is probably not going to go away

What Can I Do if Someone I Love Has a Personality Disorder?

It can be extremely painful to watch someone you love struggle to maintain healthy relationships. You may feel discouraged as you witness the person’s sense of loneliness and isolation.

There are a few steps you can take if you think someone you love has a personality disorder. Get help from friends and support groups for yourself. Consider what might be most helpful for your loved one. Does he or she need counseling? Or does he or she just a wake-up call from someone who cares? Is he or she at risk for legal problems if the antisocial behavior continues? Consider how you might talk to him or her about your concerns. Make it clear that you’re willing to support him or her in making things better.

It is important to consider whether your relationship with this person is healthy for you.

What Can I Do if I Think I Have a Personality Disorder?

You may have a personality disorder and be able to recognize and accept your condition. This acknowledgment can go a long way to getting better. Seek help from a qualified counselor and stick with a treatment plan.

It is important to establish and maintain your treatment plan. You will also want to reduce stress in your life. Adopt healthy lifestyle habits such as the following:

  • Get regular, moderate exercise.
  • Eat a healthy diet.
  • Get plenty of sleep.
  • Practice yoga, meditation, and relaxation techniques.
  • Avoid stimulants, alcohol, and illicit drugs.
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