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Types of Personality Disorders

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Megan Bandy

June 28, 2021

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Most of us spend our lives trying to understand ourselves and our personalities. Our personality is what makes us who we are and guides how we understand the world around us. 

For people with personality disorders, simply doing what they think and feel can be incredibly difficult. They may be judged and labeled by others without understanding what they’re doing wrong. 

Personality disorders impact someone’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, which means they tend to interpret the world around them uniquely and act in ways that differ drastically from other people. This often leads to difficulty in relationships but can impact other areas of life, as well. 

 

Types of personality disorders

Typically, for someone to be diagnosed with a personality disorder, symptoms must impact multiple areas of their life, such as how they think about themselves or others, how they relate to the people around them, how they control their behavior, and how they emotionally respond to different situations.

Personality disorders are very complex and look very different from one another. Because of this, they are generally categorized into 3 separate clusters, with each unique disorder also differing from those within the same cluster. They include:

Cluster A – generally presents with eccentric or outlandish thoughts and behaviors, including paranoid personality disorder, schizoid personality disorder, and schizotypal personality disorder.

Cluster B – generally presents with exaggerated, emotional, and impulsive thoughts and behaviors, including antisocial personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, histrionic personality disorder, and narcissistic personality disorder.

Cluster C – generally presents with incredibly anxious thoughts and behaviors, including avoidant personality disorder, dependent personality disorder, and obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (not to be confused with obsessive-compulsive disorder, which is separate and is not considered a personality disorder – it’s also known as “anankastic personality disorder”).

Within each cluster, personality disorders can have a lot of overlap, which is why it’s important to know the symptoms and consult a mental health professional for a proper diagnosis.

 

Symptoms

Because each personality disorder is its distinctive disorder, there’s no clear and exact list of signs and symptoms for personality disorders at large. However, certain broad symptoms may overlap between disorders within each cluster. 

Cluster A personality disorders’ symptoms may include:

  • Atypical emotional responses
  • Some level of unjustified suspicion
  • Acting angry, indifferent, or hostile towards others
  • Avoiding social events and preferring to be alone
  • Lacking typical social awareness

Cluster B personality disorders’ symptoms may include:

  • Risky or impulsive behavior
  • Little regard for potential consequences
  • Dramatic, outlandish, or extreme statements or beliefs
  • Showing a higher level of intensity than most

Cluster C personality disorders’ symptoms may include:

  • Fearing disapproval or rejection from others
  • High levels of anxiety
  • Patterns of behavior that revolve around their respective root anxieties

These are only broad signs or symptoms that can effectively apply to each disorder in a cluster﹣more specific symptoms are available for individual disorders. However, because people are unique and have very different lifestyles or backgrounds, personality disorders can look different from person to person. 

Personality disorders also share many similarities with disorders in the same cluster, which can create a sort of “gray area” in the diagnostic process. Their complexity can make them difficult to identify in yourself or others, which is why people with existing personality disorders are often unaware of their disorder and may never receive mental health treatment.

Treatment can help those with personality disorders live much more fulfilling lives. If you feel you may be displaying signs of a personality disorder that differ from other existing mental health concerns, talk to your doctor or therapist to learn more about your options.

 

Statistics

  • An estimated 7.8% of people globally have at least one personality disorder.
  • In higher-income countries, rates of at least one personality disorder are closer to 9.6%.
  • An estimated 84% of people with a personality disorder have a dual diagnosis, meaning they also had one or more other diagnosed mental disorders.
  • Certain personality disorders, such a Borderline Personality Disorder, have much higher rates of occurrence in women.

 

Risk factors and causes

Personality itself is deeply complex﹣it’s formed from a combination of your genetics and the environment you grow up in, though it isn’t understood what portion of your personality comes from each. Similarly, personality disorders are thought to be caused by genetic and environmental factors.

Risk factors that may enhance your risk of a personality disorder include:

  • Family history with similar illnesses
  • Repeated childhood abuse or similar trauma
  • Lack of family stability or reliability while growing up

 

Treatment

Treating personality disorders often depends on the specific personality disorder and how it’s impacting someone’s life. Typically, treatment involves a combination of therapy and medication that will best fit the individual. 

Therapy will often involve working with a trained mental health professional to identify exactly how the disorder is affecting someone’s life. Therapists will work with them to recognize their behaviors and feelings, build healthy strategies to address disordered behavior, work through relationship problems, and more. This is typically an ongoing process for those with personality disorders and may be long-term. However, it is the most effective way for those with a personality disorder to take back control of their lives.

For some, medication may also be prescribed to help with their symptoms. However, there are currently no medications that are FDA-approved to treat personality disorders specifically. Instead, doctors may prescribe antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications, antipsychotics, or other mood stabilizers to treat personality disorders or other coexisting conditions that may contribute to their symptoms. Exact medications will depend on the individual themselves, the severity of their disorder, and any potential they may have for substance dependence. 

While personality disorders are typically lifelong, treatment can help improve people’s symptoms and relationships. If you think you may have a personality disorder, talk to your doctor about finding the best care for your needs.

 

Personality disorders and Substance Use Disorders (SUDs)

People with a personality disorder are unfortunately more susceptible to developing a co-occurring drug addiction or substance use disorder. At least 22% of people with a personality disorder also have a substance use disorder. This varies depending on the specific personality disorder. More than 38% of those with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), specifically, have a substance use disorder. Even more staggering, some studies estimate that between 65% and 90% of people in treatment for addiction have at least one coexisting personality disorder, often one in Cluster B or C. This is due in part to the presence of specific traits, like impulsivity. However, personality disorders can come with a lot of difficulty in life when untreated, which can lead many to resort to self-medication through unhealthy coping mechanisms, like drugs and alcohol.

Treating both the present personality disorder(s) and the substance use disorder(s) someone is experiencing is essential to long-term health and recovery. Addressing one without the other will still leave a major problem untreated and is more likely to lead to a recurrence of the problem that is treated. 

If you or a loved one are facing a personality disorder and have been coping with substance use, talk to your doctor about building the best treatment plan for your needs.

If you need help with your substance use disorder, we are here to help you build your confidence and momentum towards the future you want. We provide treatment services for adults with alcohol, opioid, and other substance use disorders. We are currently located in LouisianaMassachusettsNew JerseyNorth CarolinaOhio, and Washington.

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