Personality disorders refer to a long-term pattern of inflexible and maladaptive behavior, thoughts, and emotions that generally begin in adolescence or early adulthood. While they are not very prevalent, with only 9-10% of the adult population diagnosed with a personality disorder, they affect the lives of the individuals who have them in significant ways. Unfortunately, due to several misunderstandings and misconceptions surrounding personality disorders, people often stigmatize those who have them. In this article, we will explore what personality disorders are, the different types, and why you should care about understanding them.
What Are Personality Disorders?
Personality disorders are a group of psychiatric disorders that refer to a pattern of dysfunctional, rigid, and pervasive behavioral, emotional, and cognitive characteristics that deviate significantly from cultural expectations. Personality disorders are diagnosed based on a long-standing pattern that interferes with relationships, work, and social functioning. They are characterized by difficulties in self-identity, relationships, emotions, and experiencing the world, leading to significant distress and functional impairment.
Being a mental health condition, personality disorders are defined using diagnostic criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5). According to the DSM-5, there are ten types of personality disorders grouped into clusters A, B, and C. Each cluster differs from the others in terms of the predominant characteristics, symptoms, and treatment strategies.
Types of Personality Disorders
Cluster A: «Odd or Eccentric»
Cluster A personality disorders are characterized by unusual or eccentric behaviors, including strange cognitions, behaviors, and eccentric beliefs.
1. Paranoid personality disorder: Individuals with Paranoid Personality Disorder experience pervasive distrust and suspiciousness of others, believing without evidence that people are exploiting, harming, or deceiving them.
2. Schizoid personality disorder: People with Schizoid Personality Disorder lack an interest in social relationships, and they have a restricted emotional range.
3. Schizotypal personality disorder: Individuals with Schizotypal Personality Disorder are not delusional, but they have peculiar thoughts, behaviors, and speech. They also have a distorted sense of self, social anxiety, and often experience magical thinking.
Cluster B: «Dramatic, Emotional, or Erratic»
Cluster B personality disorders are characterized by dramatic, emotional, or erratic behaviors, marked by impulsiveness, low impulse control, and poor inhibition of instinctual drives.
1. Antisocial personality disorder: People with Antisocial Personality Disorder exhibit a blatant disregard for the rights of others and social norms. They are impulsive, exploitative, aggressive, and manipulative, showing a lack of empathy or remorse.
2. Borderline personality disorder: Individuals with borderline personality disorder exhibit unstable relationships, emotions, and self-image. They experience intense fear of abandonment and rejection, impulsivity, identity issues, and self-harm.
3. Histrionic personality disorder: People with Histrionic Personality Disorder are flamboyant, over-dramatic, and attention-seeking. They display inappropriate seductiveness and have shallow relationships. They often display self-centered behavior, creating drama in their personal and professional lives, seeking constant attention and validation.
4. Narcissistic personality disorder: Individuals with narcissistic personality disorder have an excessive sense of self-importance, lack empathy for others, and display a strong inability to consider the needs of others.
Cluster C: «Anxious, fearful»
Cluster C personality disorders are characterized by anxious, fearful behaviors marked by social discomfort, fearfulness, and anxiety features.
1. Avoidant personality disorder: People with Avoidant Personality Disorder experience significant social anxiety and have a strong fear of rejection and disapproval.
2. Dependent personality disorder: Individuals with Dependent Personality Disorder cling excessively to others, displaying difficulty with making decisions, and a lack of self-confidence.
3. Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder: People with Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder exhibit excessively rigid and perfectionistic behavior, often feeling a strong need to control others around them.
Why You Should Care about Understanding Personality Disorders?
Understanding personality disorders can help reduce stigma, facilitate acceptance, effective coping, and improve the quality of life of individuals living with personality disorders. As mentioned before, personality disorders are often stigmatized because of the misunderstanding and misconceptions surrounding them. This stigmatization can lead to social exclusion, marginalization, and discrimination against individuals living with personality disorders.
Besides, when left untreated, personality disorders can create significant difficulties in people’s personal, social, and work life. They can impair their ability to form and sustain meaningful relationships, maintain steady employment, and cause significant distress and functional impairment.
Furthermore, understanding personality disorders can help you recognize the symptoms in yourself or someone you care about, and get the necessary diagnosis and treatment needed. With treatment, individuals with personality disorders can learn healthy ways of dealing with their emotions, thoughts, and responses, reducing their symptoms and improving their quality of life.
Tips and Advice
If you suspect that you or someone you love has a personality disorder, there are steps you can take. The first step is to seek professional help. A mental health professional, such as a psychiatrist or psychologist, can help you or your loved one understand the symptoms, get a diagnosis, and develop an appropriate treatment strategy, including medication or therapy.
If you are or know someone who has a personality disorder, it is essential to avoid stigmatizing them. Often, personality disorders are treated with disdain or seen as a character flaw or a lack of willpower. This attitude can isolate the individual with the disorder and make it challenging to seek help. Therefore, show empathy, offer support, and educate yourself on appropriate ways of managing and supporting individuals with personality disorders.
In conclusion, personality disorders are a group of mental health conditions that affect a small but significant group of individuals worldwide. Understanding personality disorders and recognizing the symptoms is essential to help reduce the stigma and practice empathy towards individuals with personality disorders. By seeking professional help, avoiding stigmatization, and providing support, individuals with personality disorders can learn to manage their symptoms, improve their quality of life, and enhance relationships with people around them.