What are personality disorders and what are the symptoms?

Personality disorders are diagnosed in 40–60% of psychiatric patients, making them the most frequent of psychiatric diagnoses. So what are personality disorders? Personality disorders are a class of mental disorders characterised by patterns of behaviour, cognition and inner experience that are evident in almost all aspects of a person’s life. Those diagnosed with a personality disorder can experience problems with day-to-day life, relationships with significant others such as family and friends and they might find it difficult to maintain employment. 

Types of Personality Disorders.

It is common for people with personality disorders to have symptoms of atleast one other additional personality disorder. It’s also not necessary to exhibit all the signs and symptoms listed for a disorder to be diagnosed.  Specific personality disorders are as follows:

Paranoid personality disorder is having unjustified distrust and suspiciousness of others. Examples of behaviours include; a tendency to hold grudges, angry or hostile reaction to perceived slight insults, little or no interest in having sex with another person.

Schizoid personality disorder is a pattern of detachment from social relationships and a restricted range of expression of emotions in interpersonal settings. Examples of behaviours include, inability to pick up normal social cues, being cold or indifferent to others, inability to take pleasure in most activities, lack of interest in social or personal relationships, preferring to be alone, little or no interest in having sex with another person.

Schizotypal personality disorder is a pattern of social and interpersonal behaviours marked by acute discomfort with reduced capacity for close relationships.  Examples of behaviours include, distortions of thinking and perception and eccentric behaviour, peculiar dress, thinking, beliefs, speech or behaviour, “magical thinking” such as believing you can influence people and events with your thoughts, belief that certain incidents or events have hidden messages meant only for you.

Antisocial personality disorder is a pattern of disregard for and violation of the rights of others. Example of behaviours include; disregard for others’ needs or feelings, persistent lying, stealing, using aliases, conning others, reoccurring problems with the law, repeated violation of the rights of others, aggressive, often violent behaviour and a lack of remorse.

Histrionic personality disorder is a pattern of excessive emotion and attention seeking. Examples of behaviours include; constantly seeking attention, excessively emotional, dramatic or sexually provocative to gain attention, easily influenced by others, hallow, rapidly changing emotions, excessive concern with physical appearance, thinks relationships with others are closer than they really are.

Narcissistic personality disorder is a pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or actual behaviour), need for admiration, and lack of empathy. Examples of behaviours include; belief that you’re special and more important than others, fantasies about power, success and attractiveness, failure to recognize others’ needs and feelings, exaggeration of achievements or talents, arrogance, envy of others or belief that others envy you.

Borderline personality disorder is a pattern of instability of interpersonal relationships, self-image, moods, and control over impulses. Examples of behaviours include; impulsive and risky behaviour, such as having unsafe sex, gambling or binge eating, unstable or fragile self-image, up and down moods, often as a reaction to interpersonal stress, suicidal behaviour or threats of self-injury, ongoing feelings of emptiness, frequent, intense displays of anger, infrequent stress-related paranoia.

Avoidant personality disorder is a pattern of social inhibition, feelings of inadequacy, and hypersensitivity to negative evaluation. Examples of behaviours include; too sensitive to criticism or rejection, feeling inadequate, inferior or unattractive, avoidance of work activities that require interpersonal contact, extreme shyness in social situations and personal relationships, fear of disapproval, embarrassment or ridicule.

Dependent personality disorder is a pervasive and excessive need to be taken care of, which leads to submissive and clinging behaviour and fears of separation. Examples of behaviours include; excessive dependence on others and feeling the need to be taken care of, submissive or clingy behaviour toward others, fear of having a lack of self-confidence, requiring excessive advice and reassurance from others to make even small decisions, difficulty starting or doing projects on your own due to lack of self-confidence, difficulty disagreeing with others, fearing disapproval, tolerance of poor or abusive treatment, even when other options are available.

Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder is a pattern of preoccupation with orderliness, perfectionism, and mental and interpersonal control, at the expense of flexibility, openness, and efficiency. Examples of behaviours include; preoccupation with details, orderliness and rules, extreme perfectionism, resulting in dysfunction and distress when perfection is not achieved, desire to be in control of people, tasks and situations, and inability to delegate tasks, neglect of friends and enjoyable activities because of excessive commitment to work or a project, inability to discard broken or worthless objects, inflexible about morality, ethics or values, tight, miserly control over budgeting and spending money. Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder is not the same as obsessive-compulsive disorder, a type of anxiety disorder.

If you would like more information about whether you may have a personality disorder then there is a quiz you can do here: https://psychcentral.com/personality-disorders-test/start.php

Please remember, this is not an official diagnostic test. It is only a general quiz to give you a broad understanding of common personality disorders and their symptoms.

It is important if you are displaying behaviours associated with a personality disorder to see you doctor or a mental health professional as untreated, personality disorders can cause significant problems in your life that may get worse without treatment.

Written by: Kimberley Aguet,Virtual Psychologist Counsellor