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Personality Disorders and their Symptoms

Personality disorders are characterized by patterns of thought, behavior, and emotions that deviate from societal expectations, causing significant distress and impairment in various areas of life. Understanding the symptoms associated with different personality disorders can provide insights into the challenges faced by individuals with these conditions and foster empathy and support. In this article, we will explore the fascinating and complex world of personality disorders.

Personality Disorders and their Symptoms

Personality disorders are repeated behaviors that cause distress and discord in the person who commits them and to those whom he relates to. Unpleasant behaviors may be personality disorder symptoms if they started when the person is young and have persisted to the present. These may involve his thoughts, emotions, reactions, and behavior. He may have impaired thinking processes, extreme mood swings, no impulse control, and offensive behavior.

These are common personality disorder symptoms:

People with personality disorders are usually very anxious and may perform self-mutilation as a way to cope with their anxiety.

They may have uncontrollable rage and be violent.

They may seek to isolate themselves out of fear and mistrust of others.

They may feel depressed and have low self-esteem, to the point of committing suicide.

They may have problems in relationships and have impaired social interaction.

They may not do what they’re supposed to do and be ineffective in many areas of their lives.

Personality disorder symptoms differ according to the type of personality disorder:

For example, a person with a paranoid personality disorder is suspicious of other people and imagines that people want to cause him harm.

One with an antisocial personality disorder is fond of breaking rules and using others to get what they want.

Someone with borderline personality disorder has unstable relationships and mood swings.

A narcissistic person regards himself highly and demands admiration.

A person with histrionic personality disorder craves other people’s attention and approval. She often acts dramatically and likes to seduce people.

A person with dependent personality disorder lacks self-confidence and is submissive.

A person with obsessive-compulsive personality disorder craves perfection and is often stubborn and obsessive.

A person with avoidant personality disorder dislikes the company of others and is afraid of being embarrassed.

These are some of the personality disorder symptoms. We should remember that people with such problems are not crazy or bad - they are sick and they need help. These may be corrected with psychiatric treatment. Seek the assistance of a psychiatrist when you or someone you know has these symptoms.

What are Personality Disorders?

Personality disorders refer to a class of mental health conditions characterized by enduring patterns of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that significantly deviate from societal norms. These patterns are deeply ingrained and often cause distress or impairment in various aspects of an individual's life, including relationships, work, and self-identity.

A personality disorder is a pattern of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that is so far outside the social norm that it is dangerous or disruptive. Merely having different views or values or opinions does not constitute a personality disorder even though some people think so.

Generally, to be a personality disorder, the behavior has to be extremely excessive. Such disorders are usually classified as a mental illness and they can have biological or psychiatric causes. Something to be aware of is that other problems can have similar symptoms but they are not personality disorders.

Personality Disorder Symptoms

Persons with dementia caused by brain damage or Alzheimer’s disease could display similar symptoms. They will not have a personality disorder but their actions or behavior could be similar to a person with one. Some people suffering from drug addiction or alcoholism could display similar symptoms especially if the addiction has led to brain damage.

Simply behaving unusually or eccentrically or voicing unusual opinions does not mean a person has a PD. Believing in such bizarre things as flying saucers, demonic possession or conspiracy theories does not mean a person has a PD. Nor does holding views others might find morally repugnant such as racism, Satanism, or Marxism means a person has one. Sometimes persons with PDs will hold extremist views but not every extremist has a disorder.

You should never assume that a person who is odd, different, or dysfunctional has such a problem. Only a qualified professional such as a psychiatrist or neurologist can make that determination. Today, there are some tests including CAT scans that can show brain damage. These can help diagnose the problems.

Personality Disorder Basics

A good rule of thumb description of a personality disorder would be as follows:
  • The disorder prevents the person from functioning normally in society. He cannot hold a job, get along with others, or support himself.
  • The disorder does not improve with conventional counseling or psychological treatment.
  • The cause of the disorder is biological such as brain damage or deformity so it is not psychological or social.
  • The disorder may respond to drugs.
  • The condition is long-term and could get worse.

Personality Disorder Causes

Until about thirty years ago, it was believed that the causes of such disorders were usually psychological. They were thought to be the result of sexual hang-ups, childhood trauma, or negative experience such as fighting in a war. Today, we know that such problems are usually biological and often caused by brain damage. For example, the real cause of post traumatic stress disorder in veterans was brain damage. They suffered in battle rather than the horrors they saw in the war.

Behavior can cause some of these conditions. Abuse of drugs and alcohol can lead to brain damage. So can being involved in fights or extreme sports. It is also possible that extreme emotional experiences could cause brain damage or make it worse. It is also possible that pollutants in the environment, chemicals in our food, and poor nutrition could cause such disorders.

Science still doesn’t know that much about the human brain or what goes wrong with it. So the cause of these problems is still largely unknown. The most likely causes are chemical imbalances in the brain that keep nerve cells from communicating properly. Other causes include brain damage, diseases, infection, poor nutrition, and injuries. Therefore, you should be very careful when dealing with a person that might have such a condition.

Personality Disorder Symptoms

Some symptoms common to all personality disorders include:
  • Very irrational behavior that cannot be controlled.
  • Inability to get along with others.
  • A tendency to withdraw from society.
  • Inability to form relationships.
  • Lack of friendships or close relations with others.
  • Inability to hold a job.
  • Inability to participate in organizations or social activities.
  • Unwillingness to participate in social activities.
  • Frequent mood swings.
  • Frequent fights or disagreements.
  • Poor impulse control.
  • A need for instant gratification.
  • Suspicion of others.
  • Alcohol or drug abuse.
  • Constant anger and frustration.
  • Childlike behaviors.
  • Poor interaction with others.
  • Inconsistent behavior.
Doctors divide personality disorders into several clusters and they have several different ones. The best way to describe them is to list them and explain the symptoms.

Personality Disorder Clusters

There are 3 clusters of personality disorders. They are as follows:
  1. Cluster A (Odd and Eccentric Disorders): These types behave in ways similar to Schizophrenia but generally maintain their grasp on reality to a greater degree. These types include Paranoid, Schizoid, and Schizotypal.
  2. Cluster B (Dramatic, Emotional, and Erratic Disorders): These people are characterized as being dramatic, emotional, or erratic. The personality types in this cluster include Antisocial, Borderline, Histrionic, and Narcissistic.
  3. Cluster C (Anxious and Fearful Disorders): These people may have a chronic sense of anxiety or fearfulness. The personality types in this cluster include Avoidant, Dependent, and Obsessive-Compulsive.

Borderline Personality Disorder Symptoms

Borderline personality disorder takes the form of unstable or turbulent emotions. A person with it is never entirely in control and may lose control at any moment. They are often plagued by extreme or excessive emotions such as fear, jealousy, anger, and frustration. Persons with this disorder often feel uncertain or abandoned. They are afraid to connect or form relationships because they have a poor self-image.

Poor family life or childhood abandonment can lead to it. Persons with it often result to drugs or alcohol. Some BPD sufferers, particularly women, will develop eating disorders caused by a poor self-image.

People with this problem often become angry easily and they hate to be alone. They often enter into inappropriate or destructive relationships simply to get attention. They also tend to be joiners and are often attracted to groups such as religious cults or gangs that offer a sense of belonging.

Symptoms of BPD include:
  • Poor self-image
  • Drug or alcohol abuse
  • Eating disorders
  • Suicide attempts
  • Impulsive behavior particularly with sex and money
  • Feelings of emptiness
  • Boredom
  • A feeling of being abandoned
  • Inability to be alone
  • Compulsive participation in social or other activities
Unlike most sufferers of personality disorders, persons with BPD can respond to psychological therapy.

    Read more here on → Borderline Personality Disorder

Narcissistic Personality Disorder Symptoms

A narcissistic personality disorder is characterized by dramatic and emotional behavior. People with it are often bold, outlandish, and outspoken. They are often drawn to fields like politics, acting, the arts, and entertainment and they can often be very successful in society. Their disorder can help them succeed or get ahead.

Persons with this disorder are often very successful in society yet they may have poor social skills. They can be very good at convincing others to go along with them but have a hard time developing successful relationships. A person with NPD could be a very good saleswoman but is unable to keep a steady job. A talented actor with it may have a poor time communicating with his own family.

Somebody with it will lie about his or her achievements. She may add jobs she never held to her resume. A man with it may claim he played professional sports or won medals in the war when he did not.

Many people with this disorder become politicians or con artists. They love the idea of having others going along with them but they don’t care about others. Such a person might demand praise from his employees but be oblivious to their emotions.

NPD Symptoms include:
  • A strong belief that you are better than everybody else
  • Constant fantasies about power and success
  • Exaggerating your talents or achievements
  • Constantly lying
  • Demanding constant praise
  • Demanding constant attention
  • A complete lack of empathy or compassion for others
  • A willingness to take advantage of others
  • A willingness to lie, cheat and steal
  • No regard for the property or rights of others
  • Setting unrealistic goals
  • A childlike attitude towards loss being easily hurt by rejection or failure
  • Inability to deal with rejection or failure
  • No real self-esteem
Many people with this problem can pretend to be tough, strong, and assertive but they are not. Some dictators such as Colonel Khadafi and Mussolini were probably NPD sufferers. They presented the image of being tough when they were cowards and were willing to do anything to get ahead. They also presented the ability to influence others. But they didn’t care about anybody but themselves.

    Read more here on → Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder Symptoms

A person with OCPD is obsessed with order and control. Such a person has to have things a certain way and becomes emotional and irrational if they are not. An example of such a person would be a woman that goes crazy if somebody tracks dirt across the floor she has cleaned.

Such people can hold certain jobs often in government offices but they are unable to deal with any sort of change.

OCPD Symptoms include:
  • An obsession with rules or regulations
  • Perfectionism particularly when trying to complete a task
  • An obsession with the letter of rules but no real understanding of their meaning or implications
  • Inflexible attitudes about religion, morality, race, patriotism, or political belief
  • An inability to tolerate persons with different beliefs or ideas
  • Inability to deal with challenges or questions
  • A lack of imagination or creativity
  • Hoards money and refuses to spend
  • Often hoards objects and refuses to sell or get rid of anything even old and broken objects
  • Inability to function in social situations
  • Obsession with minor details
  • A desire to be in total control of the environment
  • Rigid enforcement of rules even when they hurt others or make no sense
  • A lack of common sense

Paranoid Personality Disorder Symptoms

A person with paranoid personality disorder is completely distrustful of others. He or she is afraid that everybody is out to get him or her. They may believe that everybody is trying to cheat them or poison them. Such people often believe in conspiracy theories and blame conspirators for all their problems. They distrust everybody and everything.

PPD Symptoms include:
  • Finds hidden meanings in everyday events and behaviors
  • Is constantly questioning the loyalty or integrity of others
  • Is afraid to confide in others
  • Holds grudges and often acts on them
  • Never forgets a sleight or insult no matter how minor
  • Believes his reputation is always under attack
  • Always thinks that his or her lover or spouse is cheating or unfaithful
  • Takes extreme measures to protect himself or herself. He or she may own several guns and keep locks on all the doors.
  • Is afraid of persons of different races, religions, political beliefs, etc.
  • May be obsessed with terrorism and other fears.
This disorder will decrease in severity with age, but some symptoms of dementia are similar to it. Persons with this problem are often difficult to help because they see help as a criticism or an attack.

Avoidant Personality Disorder Symptoms

A person with avoidant personality disorder is so full of self-doubts that he or she does everything in his or her power to avoid contact with others. Such people generally will not get involved with other people or share themselves unless they are certain that they will be liked. They avoid jobs and career activities and are so fragile they can be destroyed by everyday occurrences such as being turned down for a date or rejected on a job application.

In particular, such people are paranoid about being criticized or ridiculed. They are so afraid of rejection that they avoid contact with others as much as possible. Such behavior can be mistaken for shyness.

AVPD (or APD) Symptoms include:

  • Avoids any activity that requires a lot of contact with others.
  • Unwilling to get involved or engaged
  • Paranoid about criticism, rejection, or ridicule
  • Feels socially inept
  • Refuses to make friends
  • Doesn’t engage in dating and similar social activities
  • Is withdrawn
This disorder is probably caused by a combination of genetic and social factors. One problem is that for much of human history, distrust of others was a good thing. A stranger was probably going to steal your food or stab you in the back so you avoided him. Unfortunately, this attitude which helped you survive in medieval times probably won’t help you in modern life.

Dependent Personality Disorder Symptoms

A person with dependent personality disorder is dependent upon others. He or she demands to be constantly taken care of and believes himself or herself to be stupid and incapable of doing anything for himself or herself. Such an individual behaves more like a small child than an adult

Some of the symptoms of DPD include:
  • Cannot make any decisions including everyday decisions.
  • Lets others take responsibility for many or all areas of life such as money, housing, etc.
  • Cannot disagree with others or question what they say or do.
  • Is incapable of holding down a job or taking care of himself or herself.
  • Is extremely clingy and needy.
  • Is incapable of being alone or doing anything for himself.
  • Demands constant attention from others.
  • Will do almost anything to get love and attention from others.

Histrionic Personality Disorder Symptoms

A person with histrionic personality disorder is a drama queen or diva. She is always seeking attention and her behavior is often marked by extreme emotionality. Such a person always wants to be the center of attention and will often go to extremes to achieve it. Not surprisingly, people with this disorder are drawn to the entertainment industry and reality TV. They want the spotlight and they fight to get it. Many celebrities such as Paris Hilton seem to have this problem.

Symptoms of HPD include:
  • A desire to always be the center of attention.
  • A craving for novelty, stimulation, and excitement
  • Difficulty forming romantic attachments
  • Difficulty making friends
  • Acting in a role such as a victim or a princess.
  • Using emotional manipulation to control others, particularly lovers and friends
  • Dressing in a flamboyant or sexually provocative manner.
  • Feeling uncomfortable when not being the center of attention
  • Constantly drawing attention to oneself.
  • Is obsessed with physical appearance

Multiple Personality Disorder Symptoms

People with this disorder switch moods and patterns of behavior so dramatically that they seem to be two or more separate people. This disorder is often mistaken for schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. A person with this disorder can be extremely arrogant and very happy one moment and dependent or insecure the next.

Some symptoms of MPD include:
  • Having two or more alter egos or alternative personas. These personas are often completely different from one another, i.e., one may be black and one may be white. One may be female and one may be male. One may be bold and assertive, the other weak and childlike.
  • Suffering from memory loss and being unable to remember important information.
  • Depression
  • Suicidal tendencies
  • Inability to function in everyday life, unable to hold a job or make friendships
  • Hallucinations
  • A tendency to sabotage himself or herself
  • Drug and/or alcohol abuse
  • Extreme panic attacks
  • Sleep disorders
  • Compulsive behavior

Passive Aggressive Personality Disorder

A passive-aggressive person is simply incapable of honestly expressing his or her emotions. Such a person is only capable of communicating through actions rather than words. An example of such a person would be somebody that can only express anger through violent attacks on others.

A passive-aggressive person will often say one thing and do another. For example, he or she may pretend to help with your work and then try to sabotage you. Such an individual is likely to lie constantly and have difficulty maintaining relationships or holding a job.

Symptoms of PAPD include:
  • Constant resentment towards others and their requests
  • Refusal to follow orders or meet demands even they when are reasonable or sensible
  • Stubbornness
  • Inability to perform or complete basic tasks or work
  • An obsession with gossip and office politics
  • Irritability
  • Hostility to others
  • Cynicism about everybody and everything
  • Inappropriate humor
  • A habit of tearing others down or bad-mouthing them behind their backs
  • Procrastination and deliberate obstruction of work

Schizoid Personality Disorder

A person with schizoid personality disorder is completely detached or distanced from others. He or she often lacks any desire for intimacy or friendship and prefers to spend time alone or away from others. This disorder is often mistaken for shyness or being a loner. Such a person often seems to lack emotion and is viewed as dispassionate or a cold fish. Interestingly enough, people with this disorder often function quite well in society. They can be hard workers and effective problem solvers and often do well at jobs that require little or no social contact. Another feature of this problem is that it seems to disappear with age.

Some of the symptoms of SPD include:
  • Social isolation
  • A lack of goals or direction
  • Lack of social skills
  • Lack of desire for sex or sexual experience
  • Lack of romantic attachment
  • Does not date
  • May not marry or enter into a long-term relationship
  • Hates being part of a group or family
  • Always chooses solitary activities
  • Takes pleasure in almost nothing
  • Has no real friends
  • Is indifferent to praise or criticism from others
  • Is detached and unemotional

Personality Disorder Diagnostic Criteria

To receive a diagnosis of a personality disorder, an individual must meet specific criteria outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).

Personality Disorder Treatment

Personality disorders may result from an interplay between chemical imbalances in the brain and exacerbating factors in the environment. To address both of those causes at once, personality disorders therapy typically incorporates some combination of medication and psychological counseling (psychotherapy), both of which together can help patients develop the self-awareness and self-control they’ll need to manage their moods and actions in the future.

Personality disorder Treatment is aimed at managing the difficulties arising from the disorder. It can take many years for results to become visible after treatment due to the complexity of personality disorders.


Psychotherapy, particularly dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), is commonly used to treat borderline personality disorder. Other therapeutic approaches, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and psychodynamic therapy, may be beneficial for different personality disorders. These therapies aim to help individuals develop healthier coping strategies, improve self-esteem, and enhance interpersonal skills.


Medications may be prescribed to manage specific symptoms associated with personality disorders, such as depression, anxiety, or impulsivity. Antidepressants, mood stabilizers, and antipsychotic medications are among the commonly prescribed drugs. However, medication alone is not considered a comprehensive treatment for personality disorders and is often used in conjunction with therapy.


In severe cases where individuals with personality disorders pose a risk to themselves or others, hospitalization may be necessary. Hospitalization provides a structured and supportive environment where intensive treatment and monitoring can take place.

Coping Strategies for Individuals with Personality Disorders

While professional treatment is essential, individuals with personality disorders can also adopt various coping strategies to manage their symptoms and improve their overall well-being. These strategies include:
  • Engaging in regular self-care activities
  • Building a strong support system
  • Learning and practicing emotional regulation techniques
  • Setting realistic goals and expectations
  • Seeking help and support when needed
  • Engaging in hobbies and activities that bring joy

Support for Family and Friends

Coping with a loved one's personality disorder can be challenging. And so it becomes crucial for family and friends to educate themselves about the condition, seek support for themselves, and establish healthy boundaries. Supporting their loved one's treatment journey and providing a non-judgmental and understanding environment can make a significant difference in their recovery.


All personality disorders are detrimental in their ways. But the person suffering from Borderline Personality Disorder may be more prone to suicidal attempts because of such distorted ways of thinking.

Regardless of the disorder, Personality Disorder treatment should be obtained, as any defect in the personality will hinder a person from living life to its fullest potential. A normal lifestyle is hampered by the person’s inability to interact with others healthily. Distorted thinking, inflated egos, or feelings of worthlessness are not the best ways to experience life, and these conditions need to be treated.


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