Personality Disorders

Personality disorders are types of mental disorders in which people have rigid and unhealthy patterns of thinking, functioning and behaving. An individual with a personality disorder has trouble perceiving and relating to situations and people. These cause significant problems and limitations in relationships, work, school and social activities. This individual may not realise that they have a personality disorder because their way of thinking and behaving seems natural to them, and they blame others for the challenges they face.

Personality disorders usually begin in the teenage years or early adulthood, with some types becoming less obvious throughout middle age.


Personality is the combination of thoughts, emotions and behaviours that make you unique. It is the way you view, relate to and understand the outside world, as well as how you view yourself. It forms during childhood, and is shaped though an interaction of:

  • Your genes. Traits that may be passed on through inherited genes are sometimes called your temperament.
  • The environment. The surroundings in which you grew up, events that have occurred and your relationships with family and others.

Personality disorders are thought to be a combination of these influences. Genes may make you vulnerable to developing a personality disorder, and a life situation may trigger its actual development.

Although the precise cause of personality disorders is not known, certain factors seem to increase the risk of triggering or developing them, including:

  • Family history of mental illness.
  • Abusive, unstable or chaotic family life during childhood.
  • Variations in brain chemistry and structure.
  • Being diagnosed with childhood conduct disorder.

Personality disorders can disrupt both the person with the disorder and the people close to them. They may cause relationship, work or school problems, and can lead to social isolation or alcohol/drug abuse.


Personality disorder types are grouped into clusters based on similar characteristics and symptoms. Many people with one personality disorder also have signs and symptoms of at least one additional disorder. It is not necessary to exhibit all the signs and symptoms listed in order to be diagnosed.

Cluster A Personality Disorders

These are characterised by odd and eccentric thinking and behaviour. They include:

Paranoid Personality Disorder

  • Pervasive distrust and suspicion of others.
  • Hesitancy to confide in others due to the unreasonable fear that they will use that information against you.
  • Tendency to hold grudges.
  • Unjustified and recurrent suspicion that spouse/sexual partner is unfaithful.
  • Unjustified suspicion of the loyalty of others.
  • Unjustified belief that others are trying to harm or deceive you.
  • Angry (hostile) reaction to perceived slights or insults.
  • Perceptions of innocent remarks or nonthreatening situations as personal insults or threats.

Schizoid Personality Disorders

  • Inability to pick up normal social cues.
  • Inability to take pleasure in most activities.
  • Limited range in emotional expression.
  • Lack of interest in social or personal relationships (preferring to be alone).
  • Little or no interest in having sex with another person.
  • Appearance of being cold or indifferent to others. 

Shizotypal Personality Disorder

  • Peculiar dress, thinking, speech or behaviour.
  • Flat emotions or inappropriate emotional responses.
  • Social anxiety and a lack of/discomfort with close relationships.
  • Odd perceptual experiences, such as hearing a voice whisper your name.
  • Believing you can influence people and events with your thoughts – “Magical thinking”.
  • Belief that certain incidents have hidden messages meant only for you.
    Cluster B Personality Disorders

    Characterised by dramatic, overly emotional or unpredictable thinking of behaviour. They include:

    Antisocial Personality Disorder

    • Disregard for others’ needs or feelings.
    • Repeated violation of the rights of others.
    • Impulsive behaviour.
    • Consistently irresponsible.
    • Aggressive, often violent behaviour.
    • Recurring problems with the law.
    • Persistent lying, stealing, conning others and using aliases.
    • Lack of remorse.

    Borderline Personality Order

    • Suicidal behaviour or threats of self-harm.
    • Ongoing feelings of emptiness.
    • Up and down moods, often as a result of interpersonal distress.
    • Intense fear of being alone or abandoned.
    • Impulsive and risky behaviour.
    • Unstable/fragile self-image.
    • Frequent, intense displays of anger.

    Histrionic Personality Disorder

    • Constantly seeking attention.
    • Speaks dramatically with strong opinions, but with few details and facts to back them up.
    • Excessively emotional, dramatic or sexually provocative to gain attention.
    • Easily influenced by others.
    • Thinks relationships with others are closer than they really are.
    • Shallow, rapidly-changing emotions.
    • Excessive concerns with physical appearance.

    Narcissistic Personality Disorder

    • Envy of others or belief that others envy you.
    • Belief that you’re special and more important than others.
    • Failure to recognise others’ needs and feelings.
    • Fantasies about power, success and attractiveness.
    • Exaggeration of achievements or talents.
    • Expectation of constant praise or admiration.
    • Unreasonable expectations of favours and advantages, often taking advantage of others.
      Cluster C Personality Disorders

      Characterised by anxious, fearful thinking or behaviour, and include:

      Dependent Personality Disorder

      • Submissive or clingy behaviour to others.
      • Excessive dependence on other and feeling of needing to be taken care of.
      • Fear of having to fend for yourself and provide self-care if left alone.
      • Urgent to start a new relationship when a close one has ended.
      • Difficulty disagreeing with others, fearing disapproval.
      • Lack of self-confidence, requiring reassurances and excessive advice from others in order to make even the smallest of decisions.
      • Difficulty starting or doing projects on your own due to lack of self-confidence.
      • Tolerance of poor/abusive treatment, even when other options are available.

      Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder

      • Rigid and stubborn.
      • Inability to discard broken or useless objects.
      • Desire to be in control of people, tastes and situations.
      • Inability to delegate tasks.
      • Extreme perfectionism, resulting in dysfunction and distress when perfection isn’t achieved.
      • Neglect of friends and enjoyable activities because of excessive commitment to a project.
      • Preoccupation with details, orderliness and rules.
      • Tight, merely control over budgeting and spending money.

      Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder is not the same as obsessive-compulsive disorder, which is a type of anxiety disorder.


        MentalWealth® does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.