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Understanding Personality Disorders

by Louise W. Rice
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Personality is the collection of one’s thoughts, emotions, and actions that make one a unique addition to society. But what happens when you have very rigid ways of thinking and acting that don’t coincide with societal expectations?

Personality disorders are defined as long-term patterns of thinking or behaviors that are outside of societal expectations. People with personality disorders can act quite differently than what is expected of them, and they can be notoriously rigid and inflexible in changing their behaviors or making compromises. They find it difficult to adjust to life’s changes and demands and find developing healthy relationships and connections a challenge.

What’s worse is that people with personality disorders rarely see that they have a problem. Their way of thinking is completely normal to them, so they do not see that they are not acting normally according to society’s standards. Since they are often inflexible in their thinking, making it difficult for them to receive treatment or develop coping strategies.

Personality disorders are the most prevalent mental disorders. An estimated 10 to 13% of the population lives with a personality disorder. Because of this, it is essential that more people understand what personality disorders are and how they can be managed and treated. Therefore, this article serves as an introduction to the world of personality disorders and gives you some tips on what to do if you have one.

Types of Personality Disorders

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) organizes personality disorders into three categories: eccentric, dramatic, or anxious (also known as clusters A, B, and C). These categories are classified by the type of behaviors exhibited by people who live with these disorders.

Eccentric Personality Disorders

As the name suggests, eccentric personality disorders (also known as cluster A personality disorders) are classified by the fact that people who live with them often appear eccentric or odd. Their behavior is often unusual enough to prevent them from having normal, fulfilling social lives.

Disorders in this category include:

  • Paranoid personality disorder
  • Schizoid personality disorder
  • Schizotypal personality disorder

Dramatic Personality Disorders

People who live with dramatic personality disorders (also known as cluster B personality disorders) are erratic and emotional. They are often impulsive, have unstable emotions, and have an inflated sense of self. As you may have guessed, they are often dramatic.

Disorders in this category include:

  • Antisocial personality disorder
  • Borderline personality disorder
  • Histrionic personality disorder
  • Narcissistic personality disorder

Anxious Personality Disorders

Anxious personality disorders (also known as cluster C personality disorders) are exactly what you think. These disorders are characterized by anxious and fearful thoughts. However, this is more than just being a little anxious before a job interview or having a stressful week. People who live with these disorders are consumed by feelings of anxiety, dread, or fear. These feelings often take over every aspect of their lives.

Disorders in this category include:

  • Avoidant personality disorder
  • Dependent personality disorder
  • Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder

Myths About Personality Disorders

There is quite a bit of misinformation about personality disorders, which has brought about quite a few myths. This section serves to debunk those myths with real facts about personality disorders.

Myth #1: People with personality disorders are self-absorbed and don’t care about their friends and family.

Many people living with personality disorders care very deeply about their friends and family. However, they usually experience intense symptoms, such as uncontrollable emotions, an inflated self-image, or inability to relate to others, which makes it difficult to connect with their loved ones. They are often unaware of how their behaviors and thinking affect those around them as they are more focused on the turmoil inside of themselves.

Myth #2: Personality disorders are not actual disorders; they are just character flaws.

Personality disorders are actual disorders that affect every aspect of a person’s life and create intense internal conflict. The disorder prevents the person from developing fulfilling relationships or relating to people at all. What makes it worse is that the person with the disorder is often inflexible and has great difficulty changing their behavior or ways of thinking. Character flaws rarely affect a person nearly as much as a disorder does.

Myth #3: People with personality disorders cannot live normal lives.

With work, treatment, and some self-awareness, a person with a personality disorder can have a rich and fulfilling life just like anyone else. Hard work may be involved, but they can still have deep and meaningful relationships and attain success in other areas of their life.

What to Do If You Think You Have a Personality Disorder

If you believe you have a personality disorder, the best thing you can do is talk with a therapist or other medical professional. Together, the two of you will be able to accurately diagnose the personality disorder and develop a strategy to cope with the challenges that the disorder brings.

Depending on the disorder, your therapist may recommend medication, lifestyle changes, mindfulness, or other behavioral changes to integrate better with society. Though personality disorders can be challenging, receiving treatment and making conscious changes can help you create a happy and fulfilling life.


Marie MiguelAuthor Bio: Marie Miguel has been a writing and research expert for nearly a decade, covering a variety of health-related topics. Currently, she is contributing to the expansion and growth of a free online mental health resource with BetterHelp.com. With an interest and dedication to addressing stigmas associated with mental health, she continues to specifically target subjects related to anxiety and depression.

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