Personality Disorders: Types, Symptoms and Treatment
Personality disorders are a distinct category of mental health conditions. These conditions manifest in different ways but share some all-encompassing, disruptive features which can have an impact on cognition, behavior, and emotions.
What Are Personality Disorders?
Our personality is what defines us from others and makes us unique beings. How we behave and interact with the world is largely determined by our personality. Some elements of our personality are genetic, meaning we inherit them, and other elements are born out of our experiences.
Our personalities are not permanent and tend to develop and change throughout our lives. These fluctuations are a natural human experience and do not necessarily indicate a problem. However, certain indicators can be a sign of troubling personality changes. Understanding what these symptoms may look like can help to determine what someone’s experience is and access treatment at an early stage.
A personality disorder can develop at any age, but typically the initial symptoms present during adolescence. Each of the ten personality disorders recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) affects the behavior and thought processes of the individual. Some shared symptoms of all personality disorders include emotional dysregulation, disordered thought patterns, impulsivity or severely restrictive behavior, and social problems.
How Can Feinberg Help With Personality Disorders
At Feinberg Consulting, we specialize in case management and intervention for individuals struggling with mental illness. We put together the best possible treatment packages, with the best possible treatment providers, for those living with debilitating symptoms, unburdening their family of the stress and uncertainty of finding the best options by themselves.
Our team is committed to finding the most suitable path to recovery for all of our clients. We undertake a comprehensive and compassionate evaluation of the needs of the individual and those closest to them and use this information to recommend and implement a treatment plan which is specialized to your loved one’s circumstances.
As intervention specialists, we work in collaboration with families who feel that the time has come for a reluctant or ‘in denial’ loved one who is struggling with a personality disorder to accept treatment. We see intervention as a strategic interruption of a way of life that is causing great harm to the individual and their loved ones, and we believe that out of this interruption can arise a path of healing and hope.
What Forms of Personality Disorders Exist?
Different forms of personality disorders exist. They are typically clustered into three groups: A, B, and C.
Cluster A Personality Disorders
Within this group, there are three conditions with some overlapping symptoms. Cluster A conditions can cause people to behave in eccentric ways which may appear strange to others.
Schizoid Personality Disorder
A schizoid personality disorder is commonly characterized by a lack of interest in connecting with other people and consistently choosing to be alone. They may consider relationships and social situations an extra complexity they would rather avoid. To others, somebody with a schizoid personality disorder may appear distant or unemotional.
Common symptoms of schizoid personality disorder include:
- Being unable to form close relationships with others
- Choosing to be alone rather than with others
- Symptoms of depression such as little enjoyment in activities, no sexual desire, low appetite
Schizotypal Personality Disorder
Schizotypal personality disorder can manifest in individuals finding it difficult to form stable relationships and who struggle in social situations. Others may perceive individuals with this condition as strange or difficult to understand due to their delusions, unorthodox beliefs, and strange behaviors. They may also appear cold or ’emotionally numb’.
Common symptoms of schizotypal personality disorder include:
- Distorted thoughts
- Difficulty forming relationships
- Behaving in a way that others may find confusing or strange
- Believing that they can read minds or understand what other people are thinking
- Feeling paranoid around others
Paranoid Personality Disorder
Somebody with a paranoid personality disorder is likely to be distrusting and suspicious of others. They may believe that others are trying to harm or trick them. Those living with paranoid personality disorder can feel easily attacked and lack trust in the people around them. This can make forming and maintaining close relationships difficult.
Common symptoms of paranoid personality disorder include:
- Difficulty trusting others
- Feeling used or manipulated by other people
- Feeling constantly on edge
- Feeling threatened by others
- Cluster B Personality Disorders
Within this group, there are four conditions that have distinct symptoms but share emotional instability and unpredictable behavior.
Antisocial Personality Disorder
Antisocial personality disorder typically manifests in a lack of consideration for other people. This varies between people but could be characterized by violence, dishonesty or manipulation.
People with this condition may struggle to show affection or compassion for others. They may also struggle to see the consequences of their actions which can result in significant problems.
Common symptoms of antisocial personality disorder include:
- Being unable to perceive the consequences of their behavior
- Trouble forming and maintaining relationships
Borderline Personality Disorder
This condition is also known as an emotionally unstable personality disorder. Individuals with borderline personality disorder (BPD) experience volatile emotions, which fluctuate significantly. They may find it difficult to reduce stress once it has been initiated, and can be triggered by situations that may not cause others to feel distressed. This unpredictability can cause people to struggle to form strong relationships, often leading to isolation and depression.
Individuals with BPD are at risk of developing severe depression and suicidal ideation. Symptoms may fluctuate for some people with this condition, with episodes of intense emotions followed by an easing of symptoms.
Common symptoms of borderline personality disorder include:
- Fluctuating, intense emotions
- Fears of being rejected
- Attaching to people who may be harmful
- Disassociation with the self
- Suicidal behavior
- Anger or aggression
- Emotional numbness
Narcissistic Personality Disorder
A narcissistic personality disorder is a severe form of narcissism. This condition tends to present more in young people than in adults, with more men than women experiencing the condition.
Someone living with this condition typically has a very high opinion of themselves and believes that others are inferior to them. They tend to seek validation and praise and try to assert their power and control over others. Somebody with this condition is likely to be preoccupied with gaining success and power, even at the expense of other people.
Narcissistic personality disorder can make it difficult to form relationships, as finding compassion for others does not come naturally. In common with many mental health conditions, underpinning this disorder is an intense fear of rejection and insecurity about themselves and their existence.
Histrionic Personality Disorder
Although histrionic personality disorder has a classification within DSM-5, some people prefer to think of it as a branch of narcissistic personality disorder.
A diagnosis of histrionic personality disorder is given if somebody experiences five of the following symptoms for at least one year:
- Consistently striving to be the center of attention
- Needing approval and validation from others
- Behaving inappropriately or in a way that causes a risk to them or others
- Severe dips in mood
- Fixation with appearance and body image
- Being easily led along by others
- Behaving in a way that seems ‘dramatic’ to others
- Gets into damaging or risky relationships
Cluster C Personality Disorders
Cluster C personality disorders share features that cause people to experience significant anxiety and fear.
Avoidant Personality Disorder
Somebody with an avoidant personality disorder is likely to be very sensitive to criticism and, as a result, may become very withdrawn and isolated.
Common symptoms of avoidant personality disorder include:
- Avoiding social situations such as school or work
- Being extremely fearful of rejection
- A feeling of ‘imposter syndrome’, like they don’t belong
- Extreme sensitivity to criticism
- Finding it difficult to form or maintain social relationships
- Isolation and loneliness
Dependent Personality Disorder
People with a dependent personality disorder may appear particularly needy and display clingy behavior, finding it difficult to manage without others.
Living with this condition may make people rely on others to do things for or with them, which can eventually compromise their sense of independence. This can lead to extreme anxiety and fear if they are left to do things alone.
Common symptoms of dependent personality disorder include:
- Being unable to make decisions without others
- Feeling needy and clingy
- Letting other people control their actions and make decisions for them
- Allow yourself to be manipulated or treated badly in order not to be alone
- Remaining in unstable relationships for fear of abandonment
- Feeling very fearful about being alone
- Having very low self-esteem
Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder
Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder is often confused with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). However, it is a distinct condition. Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder is generally characterized by feelings of perfectionism, a need for control, and rigidity.
Common symptoms of obsessive-compulsive personality disorder include the following:
- A strong urge to maintain neatness in both themselves and their surroundings
- A desire for perfection and feeling anxious if they don’t meet very high standards
- Controlling behavior, including controlling others
- May be described as a ‘workaholic’
- Unwilling to be flexible or change plans
What Causes Personality Disorders?
There is still a lot we don’t know about personality disorders, and research is being carried out to investigate them further.
There may be a number of factors that lead to personality disorders, including the following:
- Brain differences
- Childhood trauma
- Adverse childhood experiences
- Physical, emotional, or verbal abuse
How Are Personality Disorders Diagnosed?
Diagnosing personality disorders can be a complex process. If you believe that someone in your life may be living with a personality disorder, it’s important that they seek help from a medical professional. For a diagnosis, symptoms must be present over a period of time, interfering with the person’s everyday life and causing difficulty in normal functioning. Unfortunately, this limits the chances of an early diagnosis which can lead to treatment being more complicated and lengthy.
People with personality disorders may not recognize that they have a problem which can lead to further difficulties in seeking help. Usually, when people with personality disorders do reach out for mental health support, it is in regard to other mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, or substance misuse issues.
If a trained mental health professional believes that someone may be living with a personality disorder, they are likely to ask general questions to get an idea of the person’s situation. They are not likely to immediately put forward a diagnosis; rather they may explore the following:
- Physical and mental health history
- Past and current personal relationships
- Past events and experiences
- Questions that indicate somebody’s sense of reality
- Medical specialists refer to criteria from the American Psychiatric Association in DSM-5when making a diagnosis.
- A mental health professional from our team may seek further information from the person’s friends or family members to build a better picture of their experiences.
Personality Disorder Treatment
Personality disorders are complex conditions, and treatment takes specialist care. Often, individuals are living with co-existing mental health issues, and these need to be addressed too. Dual-diagnosis treatment is usually the most effective form of care and typically incorporates talk therapy and alternative treatments.
Psychotherapy for treating personality disorders aims to:
- Reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression.
- Educate individuals on their condition and help to identify triggers
- Shine a light on the problematic behavior they are engaging in and work together to change it
Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is considered to be particularly effective for treating people with borderline personality disorder, and people with a histrionic personality disorder may benefit from cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).
Support from Feinberg
If your loved one is showing signs of struggling with a personality disorder, reach out for help from us at Feinberg Consulting. We will support you by developing a personalized treatment and recovery plan based on your needs and goals and will guide you every step of the way if an intervention is deemed necessary.
We understand that the personality disorder with which your loved one is suffering has an effect on those around them, all of whom experience it differently. This is why we involve the wider family in formulating a recommended treatment plan that reflects the needs and hopes of everyone. We work with a wide network of treatment facilities, and after evaluating your loved one’s needs, we will connect you with a center that specializes in the form of support they need. Get in touch with us today to start the healing process.