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Introduction to Personality Disorders

Personality Disorders

What is a Personality Disorder?

The term "Personality Disorder" implies there is something not-quite-right about someone's personality. However, the term "personality disorder" simply refers to a diagnostic category of psychiatric disorders characterized by a chronic, inflexible, and maladaptive pattern of relating to the world. This maladaptive pattern is evident in the way a person thinks, feels, and behaves. The most noticeable and significant feature of these disorders is their negative effect on interpersonal relationships. A person with an untreated personality disorder is rarely able to enjoy sustained, meaningful, and rewarding relationships with others, and any relationships they do form are often fraught with problems and difficulties.

To be diagnosed with a "personality disorder" does not mean that someone's personality is fatally flawed or that they represent some freak of nature. In fact, these disorders are not that uncommon and are dee...More

Fast Facts: Learn! Fast!

What is a Personality Disorder?

  • Personality disorders are characterized by a chronic inflexible pattern of relating to the world that appears in the way a person thinks, feels, and behaves.
  • A person with an untreated personality disorder is rarely able to enjoy ongoing, meaningful, and rewarding relationships with others, and any relationships they do form often have many problems and difficulties.
  • This pattern consists of problematic behaviors and traits, starting early in life, observed across many different situations, over a long period of time, that cause significant distress.
  • The defining features of a personality disorder are: a) rigid and distorted thinking, b) problems with emotional response patterns (feelings), c) impulse control problems/behaviors, and d) significant problems relating to and with others.
  • When people have distorted ways of thinking about themselves and others and have difficulty controlling their emotions and their impulses, it will affect the way they handle conflict with others, and the way other people will react to them.

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What types of Personality Disorders are there?

  • There are 10 Personality Disorders that are split into 3 Clusters.
  • Cluster A includes Paranoid, Schizoid, and Schizotypal Personality Disorders, which share features of social awkwardness, social withdrawal and distorted thinking.
  • Cluster B includes Borderline Personality Disorder, Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Histrionic Personality Disorder, and Antisocial Personality Disorder, which share problems with impulse control and emotional regulation.
  • Cluster C includes Avoidant, Dependent, and Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorders, which share a high level of anxiety.

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For information on symptoms of Cluster A disorders
For information on symptoms of Cluster B disorders
For information on symptoms of Cluster C disorders

What are the causes of Personality Disorders?

  • There are 2 main factors that contribute to the development of a personality disorder.
  • These are 1) biological factors, meaning people's genetic make-up and temperament, and 2) social and environmental factors, meaning people's life experiences, particularly early childhood experiences.
  • These two areas interact in complex ways to influence the development of personality and therefore, a person's vulnerability to the development of a personality disorder.
  • The influence of biology on behavior is often revealed in temperament, or the inborn personality disposition of a person. Some children are born with milder, calmer dispositions while others are more anxious and irritable.
  • Traumatic or adverse childhood experiences have been identified as risk factors that increase the likelihood a personality disorder may develop. This can include physical, sexual, or emotional abuse and neglect, the death of a parent; the separation or divorce of parents; poor family communication; a harsh and controlling parenting style; or bullying.

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What are the treatments for Personality Disorders?

  • Research about the treatment of personality disorders is still somewhat beginning and most of what is known about the treatment of a specific personality disorder cannot be generalized or applied to all personality disorders.
  • There is little, if any, research information on treatment of Paranoid Personality Disorder, Schizoid Personality Disorder, or Schizotypal Personality Disorder. People with these disorders tend to be distrustful and avoid relationships with others, which may prevent them from seeking treatment.
  • Only a few studies have been conducted on treatment of Avoidant Personality Disorder. There is some indication that cognitive-behavioral therapy can be an effective treatment.
  • There is very limited research on the treatment of Narcissistic Personality Disorder. It appears that they may benefit from psychotherapy, but the data also suggests that people with this disorder are extremely likely to drop out of treatment, which makes definite research answers difficult to obtain.
  • For Antisocial Personality Disorder, the general recommendation is a treatment that combines medication and psychotherapy, particularly cognitive-behavioral therapy, but experts are guarded about the prognosis for the treatment of this disorder.
  • There is a large amount of research on the treatment of Borderline Personality Disorder. The high rates of self-injury and other self-destructive behaviors, combined with chaotic interpersonal relationships may cause people with this disorder to seek treatment more frequently. There is sufficient research evidence to suggest that certain types of psychotherapy, particularly transference-focused psychotherapy, dialectical behavior therapy, and mentalization-based therapy are very effective in treating Borderline Personality Disorder.
  • Medications are sometimes used in the treatment of personality disorders. They don't necessarily "cure" personality disorders, but can help with some symptoms that may interfere with, slow down, or disrupt treatment.

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Resources

  • Articles

    • What is a Personality Disorder?
      • Introduction to Personality Disorders
      • What is Personality?
      • Flexibility: The Key to a Healthy Personality
      • Why Don't People Know They Have a Personality Disorder?
      • The Definition of a Personality Disorder
      • Defining Features of Personality Disorders: Distorted Thinking Patterns
      • Examples of Personality Disorders With Distorted Thinking Patterns
      • Defining Features of Personality Disorders: Problematic Emotional Response Patterns
      • Defining Features of Personality Disorders: Impulse Control Problems
      • The Most Significant, Defining Featured of Personality Disorders: Interpersonal Difficulties
      • Interpersonal Difficulties Continued
      • Summary of What is a Personality Disorder
      • Treatment - Antisocial Personality Disorder
      • Treatment - Borderline Personality Disorder
      • Treatment - Dependent Personality Disorder
      • Treatment - Histrionic Personality Disorder
      • Treatment - Narcissistic Personality Disorder
      • Treatment - Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder
      • Treatment - Paranoid Personality Disorder
      • Treatment - Schizoid Personality Disorder
      • Treatment - Schizotypal Personality Disorder
      • Treatment - Avoidant Personality Disorder
    • Diagnosis of Personality Disorders
      • The History of the Psychiatric Diagnostic System
      • The History of the Psychiatric Diagnostic System Continued
      • DSM-5: The Ten Personality Disorders: Cluster A
      • DSM-5: The Ten Personality Disorders: Cluster B
      • DSM-5 The Ten Personality Disorders: Cluster C
      • Problems with the Diagnostic System for Personality Disorders
      • Problems with the Current Diagnostic System Continued
      • Alternative Diagnostic Models for Personality Disorders: The DSM-5 Dimensional Approach
      • Alternative Diagnostic Models for Personality Disorders Continued
      • Kernberg's Dimensional Approach: An Alternative Classification System
      • The Dimension of Personality Organization
      • The Three Levels of Personality Organization
      • Linking Two Personality Dimensions Differentiates Personality Disorders
      • Co-occurrence of Personality Disorders with Other Disorders
      • Co-Occurence of Personality Disorders
      • Co-Occurence of Personality Disorders Continued
      • Why Do Personality Disorders Frequently Occur With Other Disorders?
    • Causes of Personality Disorders
      • What Causes Personality Disorders?
      • Biological Factors Related to the Development of Personality Disorders (Nature)
      • Early life Experiences and the Development of Personality Disorders (Nurture):
      • The Bio-Psycho-Social Model of Human Behavior
      • Object Relations Theory of Personality Disorders
      • Object Relations Theory Continued
      • Attachment Theory of Personality Disorder
      • Attachment Theory Expanded: Mentalization
      • Cognitive-Behavioral Theory of Personality Disorders
      • Cognitive-Behavioral Theory Expanded: The Dialectical Behavioral Approach
      • Cognitive-Behavioral Theory Expanded: Schema Theory
      • Other Explanations of Personality Disorders: Structural Analysis of Social Behavior (SASB)
      • Structural Analysis of Social Behavior (SASB) Continued
      • Biological Explanations of Personality Disorder
      • Biological Explanations Continued
    • Treatment of Personality Disorders
      • The Treatment of Personality Disorders
      • Types of Treatment for Personality Disorders
      • Transference Focused Psychotherapy (TFP) for Personality Disorders
      • Transference Focused Psychotherapy (TFP) Continued
      • Mentalization-Based Treatment (MBT) for Personality Disorders
      • Mentalization-Based Treatment (MBT) Continued
      • Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy for Personality Disorders (CBT)
      • Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy Continued
      • Dialectical Behavior Therapy for Personality Disorders (DBT)
      • Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) Continued
      • Schema Therapy for Personality Disorders
      • Schema Therapy Continued
      • Medications for Treating Personality Disorder
      • Medication Treatments Continued
      • Treatment complications: Co-occurring Disorders
      • A Dual-Diagnosis Approach to Personality Disorder Treatment
    • Personality Disorders Summary and Conclusion
      • Personality Disorders Summary and Conclusion
    • Personality Disorders References and Resources
      • References and Resources - Part I
      • References and Resources - Part II
      • References and Resources - Part III
      • References and Resources - Part IV
  • Questions and Answers

    • She's Lied About Everything
    • Married to a Psychopath
    • What am I Supposed to do With a Hypochondriac Step Daughter?
    • How to Help my Delusional Son?
    • What is This, and What do I do About it?
    • Is my Sister a Pathological Liar?
    • How Can I Overcome my Debilitating Shyness and Fear of Life?
    • Am I Really That Messed Up?
    • Why Do I like Being Abused?
    • Co-Dependent Mother
    • 88more
      • Should I Stay With a Lying Husband?
      • Jealous Girlfriend
      • Liar
      • Is Erotic Transference Permanent?
      • How do I Help my Hypochondriac Sister-in-Law?
      • I Think I Have a Mental Illness
      • Why Can't I Get Over It?
      • Hopeless
      • Is There Such a Thing as Happiness?
      • How Can I Not Lie Anymore?
      • Erotic Transference and Borderline Personality Disorder
      • Am I a Sociopath?
      • 20 Year Old Viewed Child Porn, Computer Taken by Police
      • How do I Cope With a Parent Who is Trying to Ruin me?
      • Is it Okay to Give Up?
      • I Think I Have Sexual Issue's
      • I Think I Need Some Help
      • Extreme Jealousy
      • I Never Experience Happiness
      • Diagnosis Second Opinion
      • I Think I'm Depressed
      • Born to Lose, or Nurtured to Lose?
      • Why Does He Lie?
      • Help with a Histrionic Friend
      • Silent Treatment
      • Are Personality Disorders For Life?
      • My Husband is Too Affectionate
      • Delusional and Morbid Jealousy?
      • Anxiety Disorder vs. Personality Disorder: Differences?
      • Anger Driven Down Wrong Road
      • Bipolar Woman with Secret Lives
      • Would Medication Help?
      • Sociopath or Sociopath-like Product of My Environment?
      • Help
      • DBS
      • Diet and anxiety
      • My boyfriend is a Sociopath
      • Im so confused...is is BPD or Bipolar?
      • Save my marriage!
      • Why is my mom following me around to take over my life?
      • What is Neuroticism?
      • Anti social with accepting girlfriend
      • Does my husband have a personality disorder?
      • Is it possible to stop being an attention seeker?
      • Are all personality disorders the results of poor parenting?
      • Boyfriend with APD - frustrated - Nelly - Jul 21st 2008
      • I'm overemotional! What's wrong with me?
      • Identity Confusion: I don't know what personality disorders I have
      • AM I BEING ABUSED BY MY THERAPIST?
      • My partner of 6 years suddenly left with no explanation and has completely shut me and my kids out- Elise
      • Is Borderline Personality Disorder a Choice?
      • Can he be changed?
      • I don't know who my true self is!
      • Self-Injury / Self-Harm: How do I stop cutting myself?
      • What Are Some Coping Skills for Paranoia?
      • Ritual Penance and Feelings of Worthlessness
      • Is she mentally ill and is there anything i can do?
      • Please explain how it is that psychopaths can manipulate people if they have no empathy
      • A Friend in Need
      • Three different personality disorders
      • Mild Personality Disorder
      • My OCPD husband can't tolerate my 'flaws'
      • I think i'm lost?
      • Possible borderline?
      • Very confusing relationship
      • Coping with Narcissistic Behavior
      • What is wrong with me?
      • No Friends
      • I want a personality disorder
      • Borderline Girlfriend
      • Habitual Liar? Or Something Worse?
      • Possible Munchausen Syndrome
      • I choose victims to comfort me
      • A Habitual Liar's Lament
      • Protecting Children From Their Grandmother
      • I Don't Have Any Idea What To Say
      • Craving Attention
      • Obsessive Research Assistant
      • Externalization
      • Dissociative Identity Problem
      • Getting Along With Narcissistic Relatives
      • Dysfunctional Family
      • How To Treat Avoidant Personality
      • Personality Disordered Grandmother
      • Schizoid(?) Friend
      • Lying Friend
      • More Than One Personality Disorder?
      • Pathological Lying
  • Book & Media Reviews

    • A Bright Red Scream
    • Almost a Psychopath
    • Antisocial Behavior in Children and Adolescents
    • Borderline Personality Disorder
    • Borderline Personality Disorder and the Conversational Model
    • Children of the Aging Self-Absorbed
    • Children of the Self-Absorbed
    • Coping with BPD
    • Coping With Difficult People
    • Dangerous and Severe Personality Disorder
    • 38more
      • Disordered Personalities and Crime
      • Distancing
      • Enough About You
      • Fatal Flaws
      • Get Me Out of Here
      • Girl in Need of a Tourniquet
      • Girl Walking Backwards
      • Girl, Interrupted
      • Handbook of Personality Disorders
      • I Hate You-Don't Leave Me
      • Let Me Make It Good
      • Lost in the Mirror
      • Loving Someone with Borderline Personality Disorder
      • Mysterious Creatures
      • Personality Disorders in Modern Life
      • Practical Management of Personality Disorder
      • Prozac Nation
      • Psychopathy
      • Psychotherapy for Personality Disorders
      • Skin Game
      • Stop Caretaking the Borderline or Narcissist
      • Stop Walking on Eggshells
      • Stop Walking on Eggshells
      • Surviving a Borderline Parent
      • The Angry Heart
      • The Borderline Personality Disorder Survival Guide
      • The Buddha & The Borderline
      • The Clinical and Forensic Assessment of Psychopathy
      • The Essential Family Guide to Borderline Personality Disorder
      • The Psychopath Test
      • The Siren's Dance
      • Through the Looking Glass
      • Understanding and Treating Borderline Personality Disorder
      • Understanding the Borderline Mother
      • Why Is It Always About You?
      • Without Conscience
      • Women and Borderline Personality Disorder
      • Women Who Hurt Themselves
  • Videos

    • Rethinking BPD: A Clinician's View
    • Rethinking BPD: A Patient's View
    • NAMI's Ask the Doctor Call--Borderline Personality Disorder
    • "Back From the Edge" - Borderline Personality Disorder
    • What is Borderline Personality Disorder?
    • Personality Disorders
    • What is Antisocial Personality Disorder?
    • What is Narcissistic Personality Disorder?
    • Dependent Personality Disorder
    • What is Paranoid Personality Disorder?
    • 1more
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