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Personality disorders
Symptoms & causes
Diagnosis & treatment
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Overview
A personality disorder is a type of mental disorder in which you have a rigid and unhealthy pattern of thinking, functioning and behaving. A person with a personality disorder has trouble perceiving and relating to situations and people. This causes significant problems and limitations in relationships, social activities, work and school.
In some cases, you may not realize that you have a personality disorder because your way of thinking and behaving seems natural to you. And you may blame others for the challenges you face.
Personality disorders usually begin in the teenage years or early adulthood. There are many types of personality disorders. Some types may become less obvious throughout middle age.
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Symptoms
Types of personality disorders are grouped into three clusters, based on similar characteristics and symptoms. Many people with one personality disorder also have signs and symptoms of at least one additional personality disorder. It’s not necessary to exhibit all the signs and symptoms listed for a disorder to be diagnosed.
Cluster A personality disorders
Cluster A personality disorders are characterized by odd, eccentric thinking or behavior. They include paranoid personality disorder, schizoid personality disorder and schizotypal personality disorder.
Paranoid personality disorder
Pervasive distrust and suspicion of others and their motives
Unjustified belief that others are trying to harm or deceive you
Unjustified suspicion of the loyalty or trustworthiness of others
Hesitancy to confide in others due to unreasonable fear that others will use the information against you
Perception of innocent remarks or nonthreatening situations as personal insults or attacks
Angry or hostile reaction to perceived slights or insults
Tendency to hold grudges
Unjustified, recurrent suspicion that spouse or sexual partner is unfaithful
Schizoid personality disorder
Lack of interest in social or personal relationships, preferring to be alone
Limited range of emotional expression
Inability to take pleasure in most activities
Inability to pick up normal social cues
Appearance of being cold or indifferent to others
Little or no interest in having sex with another person
Schizotypal personality disorder
Peculiar dress, thinking, beliefs, speech or behavior
Odd perceptual experiences, such as hearing a voice whisper your name
Flat emotions or inappropriate emotional responses
Social anxiety and a lack of or discomfort with close relationships
Indifferent, inappropriate or suspicious response to others
“Magical thinking” — believing you can influence people and events with your thoughts
Belief that certain casual incidents or events have hidden messages meant only for you
Cluster B personality disorders
Cluster B personality disorders are characterized by dramatic, overly emotional or unpredictable thinking or behavior. They include antisocial personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, histrionic personality disorder and narcissistic personality disorder.
Antisocial personality disorder
Disregard for others’ needs or feelings
Persistent lying, stealing, using aliases, conning others
Recurring problems with the law
Repeated violation of the rights of others
Aggressive, often violent behavior
Disregard for the safety of self or others
Impulsive behavior
Consistently irresponsible
Lack of remorse for behavior
Borderline personality disorder
Impulsive and risky behavior, such as having unsafe sex, gambling or binge eating
Unstable or fragile self-image
Unstable and intense relationships
Up and down moods, often as a reaction to interpersonal stress
Suicidal behavior or threats of self-injury
Intense fear of being alone or abandoned
Ongoing feelings of emptiness
Frequent, intense displays of anger
Stress-related paranoia that comes and goes
Histrionic personality disorder
Constantly seeking attention
Excessively emotional, dramatic or sexually provocative to gain attention
Speaks dramatically with strong opinions, but few facts or details to back them up
Easily influenced by others
Shallow, rapidly changing emotions
Excessive concern with physical appearance
Thinks relationships with others are closer than they really are
Narcissistic personality disorder
Belief that you’re special and more important than others
Fantasies about power, success and attractiveness
Failure to recognize others’ needs and feelings
Exaggeration of achievements or talents
Expectation of constant praise and admiration
Arrogance
Unreasonable expectations of favors and advantages, often taking advantage of others
Envy of others or belief that others envy you
Cluster C personality disorders
Cluster C personality disorders are characterized by anxious, fearful thinking or behavior. They include avoidant personality disorder, dependent personality disorder and obsessive-compulsive personality disorder.
Avoidant personality disorder
Too sensitive to criticism or rejection
Feeling inadequate, inferior or unattractive
Avoidance of work activities that require interpersonal contact
Socially inhibited, timid and isolated, avoiding new activities or meeting strangers
Extreme shyness in social situations and personal relationships
Fear of disapproval, embarrassment or ridicule
Dependent personality disorder
Excessive dependence on others and feeling the need to be taken care of
Submissive or clingy behavior toward others
Fear of having to provide self-care or fend for yourself if left alone
Lack of self-confidence, requiring excessive advice and reassurance from others to make even small decisions
Difficulty starting or doing projects on your own due to lack of self-confidence
Difficulty disagreeing with others, fearing disapproval
Tolerance of poor or abusive treatment, even when other options are available
Urgent need to start a new relationship when a close one has ended
Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder
Preoccupation with details, orderliness and rules
Extreme perfectionism, resulting in dysfunction and distress when perfection is not achieved, such as feeling unable to finish a project because you don’t meet your own strict standards
Desire to be in control of people, tasks and situations, and inability to delegate tasks
Neglect of friends and enjoyable activities because of excessive commitment to work or a project
Inability to discard broken or worthless objects
Rigid and stubborn
Inflexible about morality, ethics or values
Tight, miserly control over budgeting and spending money
Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder is not the same as obsessive-compulsive disorder, a type of anxiety disorder.
When to see a doctor
Causes
Personality is the combination of thoughts, emotions and behaviors that makes you unique. It’s the way you view, understand and relate to the outside world, as well as how you see yourself. Personality forms during childhood, shaped through an interaction of:
Your genes. Certain personality traits may be passed on to you by your parents through inherited genes. These traits are sometimes called your temperament.
Your environment. This involves the surroundings you grew up in, events that occurred, and relationships with family members and others.
Personality disorders are thought to be caused by a combination of these genetic and environmental influences. Your genes may make you vulnerable to developing a personality disorder, and a life situation may trigger the actual development.
Risk factors
Although the precise cause of personality disorders is not known, certain factors seem to increase the risk of developing or triggering personality disorders, including:
Family history of personality disorders or other mental illness
Abusive, unstable or chaotic family life during childhood
Being diagnosed with childhood conduct disorder
Variations in brain chemistry and structure
Complications
Personality disorders can significantly disrupt the lives of both the affected person and those who care about that person. Personality disorders may cause problems with relationships, work or school, and can lead to social isolation or alcohol or drug abuse.
By Mayo Clinic Staff
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Diagnosis & treatment
Sept. 23, 2016PrintShare on: FacebookTwitter
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