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Personality disorders

Updated on August 18, 2013

A personality includes a distinctive set of traits, behavior style and patterns. We perceive the world from the perspective of our attitudes, beliefs, thoughts and feelings.

Those who have a personality disorder experience great difficulty dealing with other people. They tend to be inflexible and rigid. They feel that their behavior patterns are normal or right. People with personality disorders tend to have a narrow view of the world and find it difficult to participate in social activities.

People with personality disorders are genetically predisposed to them. In some cases, some environmental factors may cause a person to develop a personality disorder, who is genetically vulnerable. Some believe that events occurring in early childhood exert a strong influence on their behavior, causing a disorder.

The personality disorders have been classified into three following major groups as per their emotional flavor, which further include different disorders.

Cluster A – odd or eccentric

Cluster B – dramatic, emotional or erratic

Cluster C – anxious and fearful

The following is the description of various disorders falling into different clusters –

Cluster A --

Schizoid – Their characteristics are listed below –

  • Emotionally cold
  • Live in fantasy world
  • Avoid contact with people and prefer own company

Paranoid – Their characteristics are listed below –

  • Suspicious
  • Feel easily rejected
  • Tend to hold grudges
  • Feel that other people are being nasty to them

Schizotypal – Their characteristics are listed below –

  • Odd ideas
  • Eccentric behavior
  • Lack of clarity of thoughts
  • Lack of emotion or inappropriate emotional reaction
  • See or hear many things
  • Sometimes related to schizophrenia

Cluster B –

Anti-social or dissocial – Their characteristics are as follows –

  • Tend to be aggressive
  • Commit crimes
  • Impulsive. Do things at the spur of the moment
  • Don’t feel guilty
  • Don’t learn from unpleasant experiences
  • Find it difficult to make intimate relationships
  • Don’t care much about the feelings of others
  • Develop pervasive pattern of disregard for rights of others in childhood or early adolescence

Borderline or emotionally unstable – Their characteristics are as below --

  • Impulsive
  • Feel empty
  • Do self-harm like cutting themselves or attempting suicides
  • Make relationships easily but lose them
  • Can feel paranoid or depressed
  • When stressed, hear voices or noises

Narcissistic – Their characteristics are as below –

  • Have a strong sense of self-importance
  • Dream of limitless success, power or intellectual brilliance
  • Exploit others
  • Crave for attention from others
  • Ask for favors but don’t return them

Histrionic – Their characteristics are as below –

  • Over dramatize events
  • Can be seductive
  • Self-centered
  • Crave for new things and excitement
  • Worry a lot about appearance
  • Have strong emotions which change quickly

Cluster C –

Obsessive-compulsive – Their characteristics are listed below –

  • Worry a lot
  • Perfectionist
  • Rigid in what to do
  • Cautious and fastidious for details
  • Find it hard to adapt to new situations
  • Judgmental
  • Have high moral standard
  • Sensitive to criticism
  • Can have obsessional thoughts and images

Avoidant – Their characteristics are listed below –

  • Worry a lot
  • Feel insecure and inferior
  • Anxious and tense
  • Extremely sensitive to criticism
  • Have to be liked and accepted

Dependent – Their characteristics are listed below –

  • Passive
  • Depends on others for decisions
  • Do what others want them to do
  • Feel hopeless and incompetent
  • Easily feel abandoned by others

Management of personality disorder –

It depends on particular personality disorder, its severity and the patient’s life situations. Because personality disorders tend to be chronic and can sometimes last much of the adult life, an individual may need long term treatment. Often a team approach is appropriate to make sure all the psychiatric, medical and social needs are met.

Psychotherapy is at the core of management for personality disorders. Since personality disorders produce symptoms as a result of poor coping skills, psychotherapy is directed to improve perceptions of and responses to social and environmental stressors. Medications are in no way curative for any personality disorder. They should be viewed as an adjunct to psychotherapy so that the patient may productively engage in psychotherapy.

Criteria for hospitalization of patients with personality disorders are generally the same as for patients with psychiatric disorders. They are imminent danger to self or others, inability to care for basic needs and psychosocial stressors. Short stays may be required to adjust medication regimen and/or to implement psychotherapeutic management.


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