Personality Disorders

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Personality Disorders

What Are Personality Disorders?

People with personality disorders have long-standing patterns of thinking and acting that differ from what society considers usual or normal. People with personality disorders often are not aware that they have a problem and do not believe they have anything to control. 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.


Personality disorders all have 4 common features:

  1. Distorted thinking patterns,
  2. Problematic emotional responses,
  3. Over- or under-regulated impulse control, and
  4. Interpersonal difficulties.

These four key features combine in various ways to form ten specific personality disorders identified in DSM-5 (APA, 2013). Each disorder lists asset of criteria reflecting observable characteristics associated with that disorder.

In order to be diagnosed with a specific personality disorder, a person must meet the minimum number of criteria established for that disorder. Furthermore, to meet the diagnostic requirements for a psychiatric disorder, the symptoms must cause functional impairment and/or subjective distress. This means the symptoms are distressing to the person with the disorder and/or the symptoms make it difficult for them to function well in society.


The ten different personality disorders can be grouped into three clusters based on descriptive similarities within each cluster. These clusters are:

Cluster A is the “odd, eccentric” cluster. (They dominated by distorted thinking.)


Cluster B is called the dramatic, emotional, and erratic cluster: (They share problems with impulse control and emotional regulation.)


Cluster C is the “anxious, fearful” cluster: (They all share a high level of anxiety)

  • Avoidant Personality Disorder
  • Dependent Personality Disorder
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder

When to see a doctor
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.

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