Personality Disorders- Types, causes, symptoms, and treatments

Personality Disorders- Types, causes,  symptoms, and treatments
Written By: Clinical Psychologist
National Institute for Empowerment of Persons with Visual Disabilities, Dehradun - M.Phil
Reviewed By: Counselling Psychologist
MA Psychology Pennsylvania State University, USA
Last Updated: 23-03-2023

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What is a personality disorder?

Personality is the way a person thinks, feels, and behaves that distinguishes them from others. Experiences, environment, and genetic qualities all have an impact on an individual s personality. Personality disorders are defined as long-term patterns of strong and rigid thought, behavior, and emotion. Personality disorders can result in erroneous perceptions of reality, deviant actions, and distress in many areas of life, including employment, relationships, and social functioning.

What are the types of personality disorders?

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) classifies the 10 different forms of personality disorders into three major groups (categories). Each cluster shares a unique set of symptoms.

Cluster A

These personality disorders are characterised by odd or eccentric behavior. People with cluster A personality disorders may have substantial relationship problems because their behavior is perceived as unusual, suspicious, or distant. Cluster A personality disorders include:

Paranoid Personality Disorder- It is characterized by a pervasive distrust and suspicion of others, such that their goals are regarded as malevolent, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts.

Schizoid Personality Disorder- It is distinguished by a persistent separation from social interactions and restricted emotional expressiveness in social contexts. People with this disorder are rather passive and have difficulty responding appropriately to major life events.

Schizotypal Personality Disorder- It is defined primarily by an individual s persistent social impairments, which include severe discomfort with close relations and cognitive distortions of conduct. Individuals with schizotypal personality disorder may pretend to be dissatisfied with their lack of connections, yet their behavior demonstrates a lack of desire for closeness.

Cluster B

Dramatic or chaotic behavior characterizes cluster B personality disorders. People with this cluster of personality disorders tend to have excessively powerful emotions or engage in extremely impulsive, dramatic, promiscuous, or illegal conduct. Cluster B personality disorders include:

Antisocial Personality Disorder (ASPD)- People with ASPD lack respect for others and do not adhere to socially acceptable standards or rules. People with ASPD may breach the law or injure others physically or emotionally. They may refuse to show contempt for the negative consequences.

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)- This disorder is distinguished by issues with emotional regulation, which results in low self-esteem, mood swings, impulsive behaviors, and subsequent relationship difficulties.

Histrionic Personality Disorder- This disorder is distinguished by powerful, unstable emotions and a skewed self-image. Self-esteem in people with a histrionic personality disorder is based on the approval of others rather than a genuine sense of self-worth.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder- A constant pattern of imagined superiority and grandiosity, an overwhelming demand for praise and adoration, and a lack of empathy for others characterize this disorder.

Cluster C

Anxiety is a hallmark of Cluster C personality disorders. This cluster of personality disorders is characterized by pervasive anxiety and/or fearfulness. Cluster C personality disorders include:

Avoidant Personality Disorder- People with this illness experience chronic feelings of inadequacy and are extremely sensitive to negative judgment from others. Though they would like to communicate with people, they avoid social interaction owing to a strong fear of rejection.

Dependent Personality Disorder- This condition is characterized by a persistent and excessive need to be cared for by someone else. It also includes submissiveness, a persistent need for reinforcement, and an incapacity to make decisions. People with dependent personality disorder have a fear of separation and exhibit submissive and clinging behavior.

Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder- This condition is characterized by a continuous and severe need for orderliness, perfectionism, and control (with no opportunity for flexibility), which eventually hinders or interferes with work completion.

Who do personality disorders affect?

A personality disorder can affect anyone. However, different forms of personality disorders have a distinct impact on individuals.

Most personality disorders emerge throughout the adolescent years when your personality is further developing and maturing. As a result, nearly all people with personality disorders are beyond the age of 18. An antisocial personality disorder is an exception; around 80% of people with this disease will have begun to exhibit symptoms by the age of 11.

People who are assigned male at birth are more prone to antisocial personality disorders. Borderline, histrionic, and dependent personality disorders are more likely to affect women than men.

What are the symptoms of personality disorders?

Each of the 10 types of personality disorders has its own specific signs and symptoms. But, in general, personality disorders involve problems with:

Identity and a sense of self: People with personality disorders typically lack a clear or stable image of themselves, and how they see themselves changes depending on the situation or the people around them. Their self-esteem may be exaggeratedly high or exaggeratedly low.

Relationships: Because of their problematic beliefs and behaviors, people with personality disorders find it difficult to build close, stable relationships with others. They may be emotionally disconnected, lack empathy or regard for others, or be extremely needy of attention and care.

Another defining feature of personality disorders is that most people with them have little to no understanding or self-awareness of how their beliefs and behaviors are problematic.

Treatments for personality disorders

Personality disorders are difficult to treat since they are, by definition, long-term personality patterns. However, an increasing number of evidence-based treatments for personality disorders are being proven to be effective.

The goal of personality disorder treatment includes the following:

1. Reducing subjective distress as well as symptoms like anxiety and depression

2. Assisting people in understanding the internal aspects of their problems

3. Changing maladaptive and socially unacceptable habits such as irresponsibility, social isolation, a lack of assertiveness, and temper outbursts

4. Changing negative personality qualities such as reliance, distrust, arrogance, and manipulation.

5. Medication can be useful to treat associated or co-morbid depression or anxiety. Depending on the symptoms, the healthcare provider may prescribe the medications.

Can therapy treat personality disorders?

Several types of psychotherapy may be useful in the treatment of personality disorders:

1. Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) provides coping skills and strategies for dealing with suicidal and self-harming urges, as well as controlling emotions and enhancing relationships.

2. The purpose of cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) is to "recognize negative beliefs and adopt appropriate coping skills."

3. Mentalization-based therapy (MBT) educates people to recognize and reflect on their own and other s internal states of mind.

4. Psycho-dynamic treatment focuses on the unconscious mind, which houses upsetting feelings, urges, and beliefs that are too painful to confront directly.

5. Family therapy, in which family members learn to change their negative reactions to one another and develop good communication skills.

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