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An Overview Of Personality Disorders

Our personalities are what make us different from one another. Personality includes our unique and subjective ways of thinking, feeling, and behaving. Our personalities are influenced by a combination of factors, including our environment, genetic characteristics, and life experiences. When it comes to understanding personality disorders, it is key to recognize that they develop through deviated patterns of thought, sensations, and behavior different from typical societal and cultural expectations. Personality disorders cause significant distress and lasting issues with functioning.

Personality disorders differ from mood disorders or other mental health conditions because they are centered on how individuals relate to others over time. Mood disorders are categorized by patterns in emotions. While our moods often change and shift over time, our personalities typically stay the same. Personality disorders are diagnosed through long-term patterns of behavior that differ from normal, expected behavior. Typically, the patterns of personality disorders begin in late adolescence or early adulthood.

Different Clusters of Personality Disorders

There are many ways to classify personality disorders, as they are best understood to lie on a spectrum. With that being said, one way to categorize them is by clustering behavior. The three clusters include A, B, and C:

Cluster A

Cluster A personality disorders are characterized by exhibiting eccentric or odd thoughts and behaviors. Diagnoses in this category include:

  • Paranoid personality disorder: causes an individual to be emotionally detached or hostile, may mistreat others because of incorrectly interpreting others’ motives as harmful.
  • Schizoid personality disorder: causes an individual to avoid relationships due to lacking social skills necessary for social interactions.
  • Schizotypal personality disorder: causes an individual to have unusual patterns of thoughts or beliefs. They may also withdraw from social settings due to discomfort and struggle to form relationships.

Cluster B

Diagnoses in this category include symptoms of unstable emotions with impulsive behavior. These diagnoses include:

  • Antisocial personality disorder: causes an individual to disregard the rights of others, leading to harmful habits of lying, stealing, aggression, or other illegal behaviors.
  • Histrionic personality disorder: causes an individual to be intensely emotional or dramatic due to the need for attention and approval of others.
  • Borderline personality disorder: causes an individual to fear abandonment in relationships accompanied by extreme emotional outbursts and self-destructive behavior. This diagnosis is evaluated through the stability of one’s relationships.
  • Narcissistic personality disorder: causes an individual to exhibit patterns such as lack of empathy for others accompanied by inflated self-esteem. This diagnosis may cause an individual to strive for acceptance and admiration of others.

Cluster C

The features associated with Cluster C personality disorders include intense anxiety and fear that motivates behavior. Diagnoses include:

  • Avoidant personality disorder: causes an individual to avoid social interactions and be severely fragile when it comes to being judged by others.
  • Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder: causes an individual to obsess over-rules and orderliness above all else in life. Individuals with this diagnosis are typically perfectionists and feel they need to be in control.
  • Dependent personality disorder: causes an individual to fear being alone and rely on others to take care of them. Individuals with this diagnosis struggle with making independent decisions and may show up submissive in relationships.

Expected Behavior vs. Defiant Behavior: Warning Signs of Personality Disorders

While symptoms of a personality disorder are dependent on the specific disorder, there are many common symptoms that could signify the development of a personality disorder. Many individuals may experience these traits from time to time, meaning that they do not automatically result in a diagnosis. It is important to understand potential warning signs so that you can monitor them in yourself and in your loved one. If symptoms continue or worsen over time, you may want to contact a mental health professional for an evaluation on how to go about treating your symptoms.

Although personality disorders tend to begin in late childhood, behavior and thought patterns may become more noticeable in adulthood. Common signs of a personality disorder may include:

  • Strange or impulsive behavior
  • Intense suspicion or distrust of others
  • Persistent mood swings in relationships
  • Difficulty with creating or maintaining relationships
  • Difficulties with social or academic functioning
  • Need for approval or gratification
  • Social avoidance or withdrawal
  • Hallucinations or delusions

Treatment of Personality Disorders

If you or your loved one is experiencing a personality disorder diagnosis, there are many treatment options available to help reduce distressing symptoms. Options include, but are not limited to:

  • Prescription Medication: such as antidepressants, mood stabilizers, antipsychotics, or others. Medication is most often prescribed to help individuals cope with mental, emotional, and physical symptoms associated with their diagnosis.
  • Psychotherapy: such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectal behavior therapy (DBT), psychodynamic psychotherapy, and psychoeducation. These forms of psychotherapy are effective in treating personality disorders long-term. In psychotherapy, a therapist will help give insight to a client to help them understand their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. They will also offer symptom management techniques, assist in developing relational skills, and evaluate behavioral changes.
  • Crisis Management: Personality disorders are often accompanied by suicidal ideation and self-destructive behaviors. Crisis management is a temporary solution to these situations that allows a client to feel safe in their environment and prevents long-term hospital admission.
  • Combining Medication and Psychotherapy: is the most effective treatment method for treating personality disorders.

Personality disorders are different from mood disorders or other conditions because they are centered on how a person relates to others — whether that includes relating to oneself or connecting with others in relationships. There are many personality disorders to become knowledgeable about. In doing so, you will be better able to recognize signs and symptoms in individuals that struggle with different personality disorders. There are three main clusters of personality disorders categorized by erratic or strange thoughts and behavior, unstable emotions and impulsive behavior, and anxious and fearful thoughts and behavior. SoCal Mental Health wants to assist you in your mental health recovery journey. We treat a wide range of mental health diagnoses and offer a variety of treatments to individualize your care. We understand that personality disorders can be crippling. For more information about the treatment options we offer, give us a call today at (949) 502-2041. You are not alone. 

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