A personality disorder is a mental disorder involving a rigid and unhealthy pattern of thinking, functioning and behaving.
A personality disorder is a type of mental disorder in which you have a rigid and unhealthy pattern of thinking, functioning and behaving. A person with a personality disorder has trouble perceiving and relating to situations and people. This causes significant problems and limitations in relationships, social activities, work and school.
In some cases, you may not realize that you have a personality disorder because your way of thinking and behaving seems natural to you. And you may blame others for the challenges you face.
Personality disorders usually begin in the teenage years or early adulthood. There are many types of personality disorders. Some types may become less obvious throughout middle age.
Types of personality disorders are grouped into three clusters, based on similar characteristics and symptoms. Many people with one personality disorder also have signs and symptoms of at least one additional personality disorder. It's not necessary to exhibit all the signs and symptoms listed for a disorder to be diagnosed.
Cluster A personality disorders are characterized by odd, eccentric thinking or behavior. They include paranoid personality disorder, schizoid personality disorder and schizotypal personality disorder.
Cluster B personality disorders are characterized by dramatic, overly emotional or unpredictable thinking or behavior. They include antisocial personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, histrionic personality disorder and narcissistic personality disorder.
Cluster C personality disorders are characterized by anxious, fearful thinking or behavior. They include avoidant personality disorder, dependent personality disorder and obsessive-compulsive personality disorder.
Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder is not the same as obsessive-compulsive disorder, a type of anxiety disorder.
If you have any signs or symptoms of a personality disorder, see your doctor or other primary care professional or a mental health professional. Untreated, personality disorders can cause significant problems in your life that may get worse without treatment.
Personality is the combination of thoughts, emotions and behaviors that makes you unique. It's the way you view, understand and relate to the outside world, as well as how you see yourself. Personality forms during childhood, shaped through an interaction of:
Personality disorders are thought to be caused by a combination of these genetic and environmental influences. Your genes may make you vulnerable to developing a personality disorder, and a life situation may trigger the actual development.
Although the precise cause of personality disorders is not known, certain factors seem to increase the risk of developing or triggering personality disorders, including:
Personality disorders can significantly disrupt the lives of both the affected person and those who care about that person. Personality disorders may cause problems with relationships, work or school, and can lead to social isolation or alcohol or drug abuse.
If your doctor suspects you have a personality disorder, a diagnosis may be determined by:
Each personality disorder has its own set of diagnostic criteria. However, according to the DSM-5, generally the diagnosis of a personality disorder includes long-term marked deviation from cultural expectations that leads to significant distress or impairment in at least two of these areas:
Sometimes it can be difficult to determine the type of personality disorder, as some personality disorders share similar symptoms and more than one type may be present. Other disorders such as depression, anxiety or substance abuse may further complicate diagnosis. But it's worth the time and effort to get an accurate diagnosis so that you get appropriate treatment.
The treatment that's best for you depends on your particular personality disorder, its severity and your life situation. Often, a team approach is needed to make sure all of your psychiatric, medical and social needs are met. Because personality disorders are long-standing, treatment may require months or years.
Your treatment team may include your primary doctor or other primary care provider as well as a:
If you have mild symptoms that are well-controlled, you may need treatment from only your primary doctor, a psychiatrist or other therapist. If possible, find a mental health professional with experience in treating personality disorders.
Psychotherapy, also called talk therapy, is the main way to treat personality disorders.
During psychotherapy with a mental health professional, you can learn about your condition and talk about your moods, feelings, thoughts and behaviors. You can learn to cope with stress and manage your disorder.
Psychotherapy may be provided in individual sessions, group therapy, or sessions that include family or even friends. There are several types of psychotherapy — your mental health professional can determine which one is best for you.
You may also receive social skills training. During this training you can use the insight and knowledge you gain to learn healthy ways to manage your symptoms and reduce behaviors that interfere with your functioning and relationships.
Family therapy provides support and education to families dealing with a family member who has a personality disorder.
There are no medications specifically approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat personality disorders. However, several types of psychiatric medications may help with various personality disorder symptoms.
In some cases, a personality disorder may be so severe that you need to be admitted to a hospital for psychiatric care. This is generally recommended only when you can't care for yourself properly or when you're in immediate danger of harming yourself or someone else.
After you become stable in the hospital, your doctor may recommend a day hospital program, residential program or outpatient treatment.
Along with your professional treatment plan, consider these lifestyle and self-care strategies:
Having a personality disorder makes it hard to engage in behavior and activities that may help you feel better. Ask your doctor or therapist how to improve your coping skills and get the support you need.
If you have a loved one with a personality disorder, work with his or her mental health professional to find out how you can most effectively offer support and encouragement.
You may also benefit from talking with a mental health professional about any distress you experience. A mental health professional can also help you develop boundaries and self-care strategies so that you're able to enjoy and succeed in your own life.
Because personality disorders often require specialized care, your primary doctor may refer you to a mental health professional, such as a psychiatrist or psychologist, for evaluation and treatment. Taking a family member or friend along can help you remember something that you missed or forgot.
Prepare for your appointment by making a list of:
Basic questions to ask your doctor include:
Don't hesitate to ask any other questions during your appointment.
During your appointment, your doctor or mental health professional will likely ask you a number of questions about your mood, thoughts, behavior and urges, such as: