A personality disorder is a pattern of feelings, thoughts, and behaviours that affect the way you understand yourself and react to the world around you. A person with a personality disorder has trouble relating to situations and people, which causes problems in relationships, social activities, work, and school. Personality disorders usually begin in the teenage years or early adulthood, and you may not realize that you have a personality disorder because your way of thinking and behaving seems natural to you.
What is normal?
Each of us has a unique personality that is formed by both our genetics and life experiences. And all of us may experience some of the characteristics of personality disorders from time to time in our lives. But in an actual personality disorder, certain personality traits are unusually extreme and inflexible, and they negatively affect your day-to-day life.
What are common signs and symptoms?
Symptoms depend on the type of disorder you’re experiencing.
Three personality disorders describe people with social avoidance or low sociability:
- Paranoid Personality Disorder—a tendency to mistrust others and suspect that their motives are hurtful
- Schizoid Personality Disorder—a tendency to not be able to relate to other people and have a restricted range of emotional expression
- Schizotypal Personality Disorder—a tendency to feel very uncomfortable in close relationships, and to have odd or distorted thoughts or perceptions
Four types of personality disorders describe people who are highly emotional and dramatic in social situations, and react to feelings with impulsive or spur-of-the-moment behaviour:
- Antisocial Personality Disorder—when one persistently ignores and violates the rights of others
- Borderline Personality Disorder—a tendency to have unstable relationships, intense mood changes, rapidly shifting self-image, high levels of anxiety, including chronic worrying and intense panic, and noticeably impulsive behaviour
- Histrionic Personality Disorder—a tendency to be highly emotional in social situations
- Narcissistic Personality Disorder—a pattern of feeling overly important, needing admiration from others and having a lack of empathy
Three personality disorders describe people who seem very cautious and fearful:
- Avoidant Personality Disorder—includes extreme shyness, feeling inadequate, and being very sensitive to criticism
- Dependent Personality Disorder—involves a tendency of needing to be led in making decisions, clinging to others, and having an extreme need to be taken care of
- Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder—a pattern of constantly needing things to be orderly and of wanting to be in control
Should I seek help?
If you have any signs or symptoms of a personality disorder, see your doctor or a mental health professional. If untreated, personality disorders can cause significant problems in your life that may get worse.
Mental Health 101
Knowledge is power. This series of free online tutorials is a starting point for learning about mental health. You can come away with a greater understanding of the mental health concern you are interested in knowing more about.
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