Types of Personality Disorders


Personality is the way of thinking, feeling and behaving that makes a person different from other people. An individual’s personality is influenced by experiences, environment (surroundings, life situations) and inherited characteristics. A personality disorder is a way of thinking, feeling and behaving that deviates from the expectations of the culture, causes distress or problems functioning, and lasts over time.

There are 10 specific types of personality disorders. Common to all personality disorders is a long-term pattern of behavior and inner experience that differs significantly from what is expected. The pattern of experience and behavior begins by late adolescence or early adulthood, and causes distress or problems in functioning. Without treatment, the behavior and experience is inflexible and usually long-lasting. The pattern is seen in at least two of these areas:

  • Way of thinking about oneself and others

  • Way of responding emotionally

  • Way of relating to other people

  • Way of controlling one’s behavior

According to DSM-5, a personality disorder can be diagnosed if there are significant impairments in self and interpersonal functioning together with one or more pathological personality traits. In addition, these features must be (1) relatively stable across time and consistent across situations, (2) not better understood as normative for the individual’s developmental stage or socio-cultural environment, and (3) not solely due to the direct effects of a substance or general medical condition.

DSM-5 lists ten personality disorders, and allocates each to one of three groups or ‘clusters’: A, B, or C

Cluster A (Odd, bizarre, eccentric)

Paranoid PD, Schizoid PD, Schizotypal PD

Cluster B (Dramatic, erratic)

Antisocial PD, Borderline PD, Histrionic PD, Narcissistic PD

Cluster C (Anxious, fearful)

Avoidant PD, Dependent PD, Obsessive-compulsive PD

The majority of people with a personality disorder never come into contact with mental health services, and those who do usually do so in the context of another mental disorder (such as depression or anxiety) or at a time of crisis, commonly after self-harming or breaking the law. Personality disorders are described as 'ego syntonic' because the person experiencing the disorder feels that there is nothing wrong as it is part of who they are. This is different to a mental illness such as depression as that is 'ego dystonic' in that the person can feel there is something wrong and they will seek help to resolve the symptoms.

Nevertheless, personality disorders are important to health professionals because they predispose to mental disorder, and affect the presentation and management of existing mental disorder. They also result in considerable distress and impairment, and so may need to be treated ‘in their own right’.

Below is a brief summary of the 10 personality disorders. Keep in mind that we all may have certain traits of all the personality disorders, and that these disorders are seen on a spectrum. If you feel that you are someone you love is experiencing one of these personality disorders rather seek professional assistance rather than self diagnose.

1. Paranoid personality disorder

Paranoid personality disorder is characterized by a pervasive distrust of others, including even friends, family, and partner. As a result, the person is guarded and suspicious, and constantly on the lookout for clues or suggestions to validate his fears. He also has a strong sense of personal rights: he is overly sensitive to setbacks and rebuffs, easily feels shame and humiliation, and persistently bears grudges. Unsurprisingly, he tends to withdraw from others and to struggle with building close relationships. The principal ego defence in paranoid PD is projection, which involves attributing one’s unacceptable thoughts and feelings to other people. A large long-term twin study found that paranoid PD is modestly heritable, and that it shares a portion of its genetic and environmental risk factors with schizoid PD and schizotypal PD.

2. Schizoid personality disorder