Man is covering his face with his hands
A personality disorder is a mental health disorder that can be diagnosed only by a mental health professional.
Photo Credit: Lichtmeister Photography Productions e.U. /

What Is a Personality Disorder?

The world of mental health disorders generally fall into two separate categories. The first category is filled with dozens of diagnoses. Depression, anxiety, bipolar, ADHD, obsessive-compulsive disorder, schizophrenia and others fit into this first category because with therapy, medication or both, they can be well-treated. In many cases, they can be resolved completely so that symptoms are very low in intensity and in frequency.

The second category houses the other group of disorders. These are marked by their persistent and fixed nature as symptoms are challenging to change and progress is limited. Whereas the other group has overwhelming levels of variation, this category has only 10 disorders. These are the personality disorders.

A personality disorder is a mental health disorder that can be diagnosed only by a mental health professional. Someone with a personality disorder shows a lasting pattern of thoughts and behaviors that stray significantly from the expectation of typical functioning and leads to high levels of stress for the person as well as their family and loved ones.

The 10 Types of Personality Disorder

To gain a better perspective on the possibility of you having a personality disorder, consider the 10 personality disorder types.

  • Borderline personality disorder: Marked by extremely volatile and intense interpersonal relationships, self-esteem changes, mood, and impulsive behaviors.
  • Antisocial personality disorder: Marked by disrespect for the rules and regulations as they care little for others.
  • Histrionic personality disorder: Marked by patterns of attention-seeking behaviors with heightened emotionality.

The above three are some of the most highly observed personality disorders in outpatient therapy settings. Those listed below occur with less consistency and with less demand for treatment. This could be that people with the conditions are less likely to seek treatment.

  • Paranoid personality disorder: Marked by high levels of suspiciousness and mistrust in others.
  • Schizoid personality disorder: Marked by a lack of social relationships and blunted responses to emotional situations.
  • Schizotypal personality disorder: Marked by extreme distress in social situations, a pattern of odd behaviors, and strange thought patterns.
  • Dependent personality disorder: Marked by the need to be cared for while being subservient and uncomfortable away from others.
  • Narcissistic personality disorder: Marked by a lack of concern for others, need for attention, and an inflated sense of self.
  • Avoidant personality disorder: Marked by being overly sensitive to criticism, social isolation, and feeling insure and inadequate.
  • Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder: Marked by extreme interest in being orderly, in control, and constantly striving for perfection.

After reading this list, you might be thinking that you or someone you know may have a personality disorder. Beware, though. Personality disorders are quite rare and need very high levels of symptoms to be diagnosed.

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Having a change in thinking or behavior that is related to a new relationship or losing your job does not qualify as a personality disorder. This is also true of people under the influence of alcohol and other drugs. Acting a certain way while intoxicated does not indicate a personality disorder.

Women are diagnosed with borderline personality, histrionic personality, and dependent personality more frequently than men. Antisocial personality is more frequently diagnosed in men than women. These rates of diagnosis are interesting, though, since they fit in well with perceived gender stereotypes. With this being true, someone of either sex can have any diagnosis listed above.

Traits and States

Assessment of personality disorders focuses on personality traits rather than personality states. Personality states are flexible and fluid as they are constantly changing. If you have a good day or spend time with a certain group of friends, your personality is going to change to some degree, just as ending a relationship or recently experiencing a trauma will cause another personality change. These changes are personality states because, after some time, they will change back to the expected version of you. This is called your baseline.

On the other hand, personality traits are stable and static. They change very little over the course of your adolescence and adulthood unless you are exposed to an injury or high levels of drug use. Additionally, someone’s personality traits will be consistent across settings. No matter if they are at work, their home, or a funeral, their actions will be consistent.

The personality traits of a person with a personality disorder will influence the way they perceive and relate to the world around them in very negative ways. Since this is their baseline way of functioning, they will be unlikely or unwilling to consider that change is needed or even an option.

Personality Disorders in Relationships

To know more about personality disorders and if someone has a personality disorder, their relationships should be inspected. Relationships reveal huge amounts of information about how someone views themselves and others. People with personality disorders will respond in unexpected ways in relationships. Again, the important facet to personality disorders is the extreme nature of the symptoms across situations, relationships in this case.

A typical person in a new relationship might spend time at night thinking about that other person, envisioning their future together, and texting for hours. Some with borderline personality disorder might already be planning the wedding, getting a tattoo done with the person’s name, and missing all prior commitments while proclaiming that this is the love of their life.

When their partner does not reply in kind, the person will take drastic steps to maintain the relationship, which could include self-injury and threats of suicide. Likely, someone with borderline personality will be unstable, anxious, insecure, depressive, impulsive, and hostile.

Someone with antisocial personality disorder will address a new relationship differently. Since this person will be consumed with their own needs and wants, they will work to manipulate their partner into fulfilling their goals, even if it means being put in dangerous or illegal situations. If the partner refuses, they will coldly end the relationship feeling no sadness or remorse. Likely, someone with antisocial personality will be dishonest, irresponsible, risky, and callous.

A person diagnosed with schizotypal personality disorder would have great difficulty engaging in any relationship or finding enjoyment in it. In the same way, this person would not be very attractive to someone looking to begin a new relationship. Someone with schizotypal personality will be withdrawn, eccentric, detached and hard to communicate with.


If you think that you have a personality disorder, relax. Chances are good that you don’t. They occur at low rates, so the odds are in your favor. If you still have concerns due to a persistent pattern of issues in your life, seek an evaluation from a mental health profession. They can give you more information tailored to your needs regarding personality disorders to confirm or deny your diagnosis.

Don’t be too discouraged if the diagnosis is confirmed, though. Despite the fact that personality disorders are long-term, many treatment options exist to reduce and manage your symptoms. The help is available when you work towards it.