Personality Disorders

Personality disorders are an enduring pattern of inner experience (thoughts and feelings) and behaviors that differ from the expectations of a person’s culture. Personality disorders are usually rigid and inflexible (and often difficult to change), have onset in early adolescence or young adulthood, result in impaired relationships with others, and often cause distress for the individual who experiences them. Mental health professionals formally recognize 10 disorders that fall into three clusters, although there is often known to be overlap between/among the disorders. Each personality disorder exists on a spectrum, as one individual may exhibit more extreme traits than another:

  • Cluster A — Odd or eccentric disorders, including paranoid personality disorder, schizoid personality disorder, and schizotypal personality disorder.
  • Cluster B — Dramatic or erratic disorders, including antisocial personality disorder, narcissistic personality disorder, histrionic personality disorder, and borderline personality disorder.
  • Cluster C — Anxious or fearful disorders, including avoidant personality disorder, dependent personality disorder, and obsessive-compulsive personality disorder.

Research suggests that genetics, differences in brain formation/structure, abuse/trauma (including verbal abuse), peer influences, parenting, and other factors contribute to the development of personality disorders. 

Personality disorders often co-occur with or mimic other psychological disorders. As with mood and anxiety disorders, medication can help with managing difficult emotions which can occur with a personality disorder. Psychotherapy can help a person develop new coping skills and insight into personality issues. Characterological change is possible, if the patient is willing to work on revising patterns of thought, feeling, and behavior and is willing to develop insight. 


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