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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Personality Disorder


Personality disorder is a general term for a type of mental illness in which your ways of thinking, perceiving situations and relating to others are dysfunctional. There are many specific types of personality disorders.

In general, having a personality disorder means you have a rigid and potentially self-destructive or self-denigrating pattern of thinking and behaving no matter what the situation. This leads to distress in your life or impairment of your ability to go about routine functions at work, school or social situations. In some cases, you may not realize that you have a personality disorder because your way of thinking and behaving seems natural to you, and you may blame others for your circumstances


General symptoms of a personality disorder
General signs and symptoms that may indicate a personality disorder include:

  • Frequent mood swings
  • Stormy relationships
  • Social isolation
  • Angry outbursts
  • Suspicion and mistrust of others
  • Difficulty making friends
  • A need for instant gratification
  • Poor impulse control
  • Alcohol or substance abuse

Specific types of personality disorders
The specific types of personality disorders are grouped into three clusters based on similar characteristics and symptoms.

Cluster A. These are personality disorders characterized by odd, eccentric thinking or behavior and include:

Paranoid personality disorder

  • Distrust and suspicion of others
  • Believing that others are trying to harm you
  • Emotional detachment
  • Hostility

Schizoid personality disorder

  • Lack of interest in social relationships
  • Limited range of emotional expression
  • Inability to pick up normal social cues
  • Appearing dull or indifferent to others

Schizotypal personality disorder

  • Peculiar dress, thinking, beliefs or behavior
  • Perceptual alterations, such as those affecting touch
  • Discomfort in close relationships
  • Flat emotions or inappropriate emotional responses
  • Indifference to others
  • "Magical thinking" — believing you can influence people and events with your thoughts
  • Believing that messages are hidden for you in public speeches or displays

Cluster B. These are personality disorders characterized by dramatic, overly emotional thinking or behavior and include:

Antisocial (formerly, sociopathic) personality disorder

  • Disregard for others
  • Persistent lying or stealing
  • Recurring difficulties with the law
  • Repeatedly violating the rights of others
  • Aggressive, often violent behavior
  • Disregard for the safety of self or others

Borderline personality disorder

  • Impulsive and risky behavior
  • Volatile relationships
  • Unstable mood
  • Suicidal behavior
  • Fear of being alone

Histrionic personality disorder

  • Constantly seeking attention
  • Excessively emotional
  • Extreme sensitivity to others' approval
  • Unstable mood
  • Excessive concern with physical appearance

Narcissistic personality disorder

  • Believing that you're better than others
  • Fantasizing about power, success and attractiveness
  • Exaggerating your achievements or talents
  • Expecting constant praise and admiration
  • Failing to recognize other people's emotions and feelings

Cluster C. These are personality disorders characterized by anxious, fearful thinking or behavior and include:

Avoidant personality disorder

  • Hypersensitivity to criticism or rejection
  • Feeling inadequate
  • Social isolation
  • Extreme shyness in social situations
  • Timidity

Dependent personality disorder

  • Excessive dependence on others
  • Submissiveness toward others
  • A desire to be taken care of
  • Tolerance of poor or abusive treatment
  • Urgent need to start a new relationship when one has ended

Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder

  • Preoccupation with orderliness and rules
  • Extreme perfectionism
  • Desire to be in control of situations
  • Inability to discard broken or worthless objects
  • Inflexibility

Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder isn't the same as obsessive-compulsive disorder, a type of anxiety disorder.

When to see a doctor
If you have any signs or symptoms of a personality disorder, see your doctor, mental health provider or other health care professional. If untreated, personality disorders can cause significant problems in your life, and they may get worse.

Helping a loved one
If you have a loved one who you think may have symptoms of a personality disorder, have an open and honest discussion about your concerns. You may not be able to force someone to seek professional care, but you can offer encouragement and support. You can also help your loved one find a qualified doctor or mental health provider and make an appointment. You may even be able to go to an appointment with him or her. If you have a loved one who has harmed himself or herself, or is seriously considering doing so, take him or her to the hospital or call for emergency help