Essay Personality Disorder

Michael W. Adamowicz, LICSW Dec 6, 2013 Updated Nov 2, 2015

Personality Disorder Definition

Personality disorders are a diagnostic category of psychiatric disorders that affect approximately 10% of the population. This group of disorders is characterized by problematic thinking patterns; problems with emotional regulation; and difficulty achieving a balance between spontaneity and impulse control.

Research indicates that personality disorders are correlated with substance use disorders. Associations have been found between borderline personality disorder, alcohol abuse and abuse of sedatives/benzodiazepines. Antisocial personality disorder has also been frequently associated with alcohol abuse and misuse. Read about substance abuse treatment to know your options.

Since everyone has a personality, but not everyone has a personality disorder, these disorders are considered a variant form of normal, healthy personality.

  • However, the most significant and defining feature of personality disorders is the negative effect these disorders have on interpersonal relationships.
  • People with personality disorders tend to respond to differing situations and demands with a characteristically rigid constellation of thoughts, feelings, and behavior.
  • This inflexibility and difficulty in forming nuanced responses represents the primary difference between healthy and disordered personalities.

Diagnosis

The diagnosis of personality disorders is often very complex as these disorders frequently co-occur with each other and with other psychiatric categories of disorders. The current diagnostic system of the DSM-5 (APA, 2013) relies upon a categorical approach that outlines the following criteria to meet a personality disorder diagnosis:

  • Significant impairments in interpersonal functioning and self-identity that are relatively consistent across time and situations.
  • The impairments have no discernable cause outside of the individual's personality trait domains, like psychological or head trauma, sociological/cultural environment and are not due to the effects of using a substance.

A personality disorder is one of a range of personality traits and behaviors that describe individuals who face challenges when dealing with other people.

The outlook of a patient with a personality disorder may be rigid and inflexible. They may find it harder than other people to respond to the changes and demands of life. Others may regard them as dysfunctional in the way they assess situations and relate to people around them.

In the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the American Psychiatric Association (APA) describes a personality disorder as: "An enduring pattern of inner experience and behavior that deviates markedly from the expectations of the culture of the individual who exhibits it."

A personality disorder is considered a mental illness. The patient can become distressed when having to perform everyday functions in the workplace, the school, or in situations involving other people.

The person with a personality disorder may believe that their behaviors and interpretations of situations are normal. However, their thought processes and behaviors may be self-destructive and self-denigrating. Other people are sometimes blamed for any problems or difficulties that arise.

What Is personality?


Having a personality disorder can make it difficult to sustain relationships.

Ryckman defines personality as a "Dynamic and organized set of characteristics that each person possesses, which uniquely influences their behaviors, motivations and cognitions in varying situations."

An individual's personality will define how they perceive the world around them. This will shape their thoughts, attitudes, and feelings.

Individuals with so-called healthy personalities are seen to deal with normal stress in a natural way, and they form functional relationships with family members and peers.

Types of personality disorder

Personality disorders are grouped into three broad clusters, A, B, and C, according to the DSM-5.

Cluster A personality disorders include people whose behavior is seen as abnormal and somewhat eccentric. A person with the disorder sees other people are seen as strange. This type of disorder includes paranoid personality disorder, schizoid, and schizotypal personality disorder.

Paranoid personality disorder

A person with paranoid personality disorder is suspicious and distrustful.

They might think that they are being lied to or manipulated, and that friends and colleagues cannot be trusted. They suspect that any confidential information about them will be turned against them. They may perceive hidden meanings in remarks that most people would regard as innocent. They may suspect their partner or spouse of disloyalty, even without evidence.

Schizoid personality disorder

A person with schizoid personality disorder may appear aloof, detached, and cold, a "loner." They may shy away from close social contact with others and have difficulty forming personal relationships.

Others may see the person as humorless and uncaring because of a limited ability to experience joy or pleasure. They may be unable to show emotion. This poses extra challenges, because the person with the condition is likely to be sensitive, and may feel very lonely.

People with schizoid personality disorder may feel uncomfortable when they have to relate to others.

Schizotypal personality disorder

People with schizotypal personality disorder are also detached from social relationships, and they may have cognitive and perceptual distortions, poor social skills, and delusional thoughts. They may have brief periods of psychotic episodes.

Others may find their behaviors confusing.

Some people have delusional thoughts about insignificant daily events, and details may take on a misguided significance. A person may believe that television or newspaper headlines are really coded messages directed at them. They may think they are telepathic or have extraordinary empathic powers, but to a lesser extent than in schizophrenia.

People with Cluster B personality disorders also have difficulty relating to others. Their behavior may be seen as disturbing, dramatic, and threatening. Examples of Cluster B behaviors are antisocial, borderline, histrionic, and narcissistic personality disorders.

Antisocial personality disorder

People with antisocial personality disorder may be unconcerned about the consequences of their actions.


Some personality disorders can make people seem aggressive.

They appear to enjoy bullying or intimidating people.

An individual with this type of disorder may be bored, depressed, and agitated. They may be deceitful and cunning, and they may try to manipulate or take advantage of others.

There appears to be no remorse or regret regarding how what they do might affect others. The problems in their lives are generally blamed on other people.

Borderline personality disorder

In borderline personality disorder, the individual has unstable and often intense relationships with others. Self-harm and emotionally instability may occur.

Histrionic personality disorder

Histrionic personality disorder involves a need to be noticed by others and a fear of being ignored. Being at the center of everybody's attention becomes the main aim.

The individual may seem not to be emotionally sincere, but at the same time they may display too much emotion. Behavior may be provocative, flirtatious, inappropriate, and even seductive. There is little concern for how others may feel. Receiving other people's approval becomes an obsession.

Histrionic personality disorder can resemble narcissistic personality disorder.

Narcissistic personality disorder

Narcissistic personality disorder involves an inflated sense of one's own importance, a craving for admiration and a lack of regard for others' feelings.


People with a narcissistic personality disorder need to be admired.

People with this condition often believe they are better than those around them. However, their self-esteem is brittle, and they accept even slight and constructive criticism with difficulty. They are easily hurt and rejected.

Individuals may fantasize about their attractiveness, success, and power. They may overstate their talents or achievements, and act as if they are special. Others are expected to go along with their plans and ideas.

They may take advantage of people around them, and if they feel that somebody is inferior, they may treat them with scorn. There may be intense jealousy.

Maintain a healthy relationship can be difficult.

People with cluster C personality disorders appear withdrawn and disinclined to mix with others or socialize. They fear personal relationships, and they experience anxiety when with other people. Examples include avoidant, dependent, and obsessive-compulsive personality disorders.

Avoidant Personality Disorder

The individual avoids social situations and close interpersonal relationships, mainly because they are afraid of rejection. They may feel inadequate, have low self-esteem, and find it hard to trust people. They may appear extremely shy and socially inhibited.

A person with avoidant personality disorder normally wants to develop close relationships with other people, but they lack confidence and the ability to form relationships.

Dependent personality disorder

A person with this condition has an excessive need to be taken care of, is overly-dependent on others and has a deep fear of separation. Others may see the person as submissive and clingy.

A person with dependent personality disorder tends to be nonassertive, passive, and docile. Their key desire is to please others, and much energy is spent achieving this. Disagreeing with others may be so unbearable that they will go to great lengths to win people over. It is easy for others to take advantage of a person with this condition, and to influence them.

The individual often lacks self-confidence, and they may be uncertain about their intelligence and abilities. It is difficult for them to undertake projects independently, or to make decisions without help.

Taking responsibility can be challenging. They may be pessimistic and belittle their own achievements. Alone, they may feel helpless and uncomfortable. If a relationship ends, they will desperately seek out a new one.

Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder

Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder features excessive concern with perfectionism and work at the expense of close personal relationships. The individual is inflexible and feels an overwhelming need to be in control. Concerns about rules and efficiency make it hard to relax. The individual may appear sanctimonious, uncooperative, obstinate, and miserly.

People with this type of disorder worry when things appear to be out of control or messy. They are typically workaholics, they are interested in lists and timetables, and they may have trouble completing tasks because everything has to be perfect.

Opinions on lifestyle issues, such as ethics, morals and religion may be rigid, and delegating tasks to others can be difficult.

Unlike those with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), individuals with obsessive-compulsive personality disorder believe their behavior is normal and will resist attempts at changing it.

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