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    Mental Health

    How do you know if you have a personality disorder?

    Published on November 9, 2022

    Our personalities shape who we are; therefore, how they develop profoundly influences how we interact with ourselves and the outside world.

    There’s much literature and resources on understanding human personality, but these constructs vary, and many factors play a role in personality development.

    Defining the human personality

    Regardless of background, culture, genetic makeup or environment, how our personalities develop will be markedly different to everyone else.

    A ”disordered” personality isn’t usually something a person is born with, although some psychologists may not agree.

    ”Development” is the keyword here. How our personalities develop through the years will depend on many things – including how ”at risk” someone is of developing a personality disorder.

    What is a personality disorder?

    Personality disorders can affect how you manage your relationships, emotions and how you cope with daily life.

    A person with a personality disorder may find that their beliefs, perceptions and how they think is markedly different to others.

    Furthermore, someone with a personality disorder may find their emotions confusing, hard to control or be entirely exhausted by how their condition makes them feel.

    Co-occurring disorders

    Personality disorders may cause significant problems and distress for the sufferer and those around them. These conditions can also trigger other mental health issues such as anxiety or depression (sometimes called a co-occurring disorder).

    Risk factors for developing a personality disorder

    Children of narcissists parents arguing

    So, what puts an individual at risk of developing a personality disorder?

    Many psychologists and mental health professionals believe that a person is more at risk of developing a personality disorder if:

    • Someone had a traumatic childhood; for instance, they experienced childhood neglect, abuse or abandonment. Psychologists sometimes refer to this as ”environmental factors.”
    • A person inherits specific personality traits passed down to them from their parents through inherited genes. Psychologists sometimes refer to this as ”genetic factors”.

    A combination of factors

    Much of the research literature on personality disorders suggests that these conditions are caused by a combination of different factors, including environmental and genetic.

    For example, a person’s genes may make them more susceptible to developing a personality disorder; however, a challenging life event or traumatic experience may trigger the condition.

    What are the different types of personality disorders?

    Studies show that around one in twenty people lives with a personality disorder.

    So, if you imagine a large gathering of people at a party, there’s a chance that at least one person in the crowd has a personality disorder.

    These are challenging conditions to live with, and many people with a personality disorder often suffer intense distress due to their symptoms – because of this, they may drink or take drugs to cope with unpleasant feelings.


    Personality disorders are grouped into three clusters: A, B, and C. 

    Whichever cluster a person fits into will determine a series of personality traits and symptoms associated with a specific personality disorder.

    Cluster A personality disorders

    People with a cluster A personality disorder may find it challenging to connect with others. 

    They may experience social difficulties, and their behaviour may seem eccentric or odd. Cluster A personality disorders include the following:

    Schizoid personality disorder

    woman frustrated sitting on sofa

    Individuals with a schizoid personality disorder may prefer their own company over spending time with others. 

    They may have few social relationships and prefer to spend time alone than with other people.

    Signs and symptoms

    • Limited range of emotional expression
    • Appearing indifferent or cold to others
    • An inability to experience pleasure in social activities
    • Prefers to be alone and doesn’t demonstrate much interest in personal or social relationships
    • Incapable of picking up on social cues
    • Minimal to no interest in having sex with another person

    Schizotypal personality disorder

    If you have a 047schizotypal personality disorder, you may struggle to maintain close relationships with others.

    Furthermore, you may experience paranoia and strange thoughts and behave or dress differently from others.

    Signs and symptoms

    • Inappropriate emotional responses or flat emotions
    • You may have peculiar beliefs, thoughts or perceptions. A person may also have a strange dress sense or odd speech patterns and behaviour.
    • Inappropriate, paranoid or indifferent responses to others
    • You may engage in ”magical thinking” – believing that certain events have ”hidden messages” meant explicitly for you.
    • Severe social anxiety – particularly in close relationships

    Paranoid personality disorder

    One of the features of paranoid personality disorder is a profound suspicion toward others. People with a paranoid personality disorder may distrust others intensely and believe that others are mean or rude to them, even though this isn’t true.

    Those with this disorder may find it hard to forgive others and may hold grudges for long periods, perhaps forever.

    Signs and symptoms

    • Unwarranted suspicion toward other people, which may include questioning a person’s loyalty or trustworthiness
    • An unjustified belief that others are trying to harm or manipulate you
    • Inaccurate perception of non-threatening events, situations or innocent remarks; for instance, you may view innocent remarks or comments as a personal attack on you or your character.
    • Continuous mistrust and suspicion of others and their motives
    • An inclination to hold grudges
    • Inability to confide in others due to a fear that they may use this information against you
    • Angry responses to perceived insults or remarks

    Cluster B personality disorders

    Cluster B personality disorders are marked by unpredictable, overly emotional, and dramatic behaviour or thinking patterns. They include the following personality disorders:

    Antisocial personality disorder 

    Anger management

    People with antisocial personality disorder are prone to aggression, violence and criminal acts. Other traits include impulsiveness, recklessness – and a disregard for the safety of self and others.

    Signs and symptoms

    • Recurrent problems with the law
    • Lack of empathy or remorse for destructive behaviour
    • Aggressive or violent behaviour
    • Pervasive lying, stealing or conning others.
    • Ongoing violation of the rights of others
    • Impulsive and reckless behaviour
    • Highly irresponsible
    • Disregard for other peoples’ needs and feelings
    • Lack of regard for the safety of self and others

    Histrionic personality disorder 

    People with a histrionic personality disorder like being the centre of attention. Because of this, they may behave or speak in lively and overly dramatic ways to get the attention they crave and may experience intense anxiety about being ignored.

    People with this disorder often worry about their physical appearance and may become bored with everyday routines.

    These individuals want to be noticed and may become easily depressed when things don’t go their way.

    Signs and symptoms

    • Can be easily influenced by other people
    • Exhibits overly emotional, dramatic or sexual behaviours to gain attention
    • Rapidly changing, shallow emotions.
    • Pervasive attention-seeking
    • Speaks in overly dramatic language patterns with strong opinions but few details to back up what they are saying.
    • Obsessed with physical appearance
    • Thinks relationships are closer than they are

    Borderline personality disorder

    What to do during a panic attack

    A borderline personality disorder is one of the most common personality disorders. In the United States, around 1.6% of the population has a borderline personality disorder (BPD).

    People with a borderline personality disorder may struggle with profound mood swings and intense emotions and feel like they can’t cope.

    Other symptoms may include problems with self-identity, such as how you see yourself. In addition, people with BPD may self-harm or engage in drug or alcohol abuse to cope with their feelings.

    Signs and symptoms

    • Fragile or unstable self-image
    • Frequent, intense bouts of anger
    • Intense and unstable relationships
    • Risky, impulsive behaviours such as reckless driving or unprotected sex
    • Pervasive feelings of emptiness
    • Changing moods, usually a response to interpersonal stress
    • Intense fear of abandonment
    • Suicidal behaviour or self-harm

    Narcissistic personality disorder

    Perhaps the most talked about personality disorder is a narcissistic personality disorder. This condition features a powerful sense of self-importance and grandiose behaviour.

    People with a narcissistic personality disorder may believe they are superior to others and expect special treatment.

    Signs and symptoms

    • An exaggerated sense of self-importance
    • A lack of empathy for others
    • Expecting constant praise and admiration from others
    • Believing that you are more special than others
    • A disregard for other peoples’ needs and feelings
    • Exaggeration of talents and achievements
    • Fantasies about beauty, wealth and brilliance

    Cluster C personality disorders

    Intense anxiety and fear characterise cluster C personality disorders. In addition, cluster C personality disorders include the following:

    Avoidant personality disorder


    An avoidant personality disorder is characterised by intense anxiety, fear, and insecurity. 

    Those living with avoidant personality disorder are likely to experience profound discomfort in social situations, fearing that they may be judged or criticised by others.

    Individuals with avoidant personalities may crave affection but worry that they will be rejected.

    Signs and symptoms

    • Extreme shyness and inhibition, including avoiding new activities or meeting new people
    • Hypersensitive to criticism or rejection
    • Fear of embarrassment, judgement or disapproval
    • Avoidance behaviours, such as avoiding work or social activities that require personal contact with others
    • Deep feelings of inferiority, inadequacy or unattractiveness

    Dependent personality disorder

    People with a dependent personality disorder may rely on others to manage their lives and typically have low self-esteem and dependency issues.

    Those with a dependent personality disorder may dislike being alone and prefer to be around others. They may also belong to the ”people-pleasing” tribe, as they often put others’ needs ahead of their own.

    Signs and symptoms

    • Clingy or submissive behaviours toward other people
    • Trouble having your own opinions and agreeing with others to avoid disapproval.
    • Putting up with abuse or bad treatment from others
    • Feeling as if you need to be taken care of by others and demonstrating excessive dependence on others.
    • Lack of self-esteem and confidence and constantly needing reassurance from others
    • Going from one relationship to another to avoid being single

    Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder 

    You may be obsessed with organisation and orderliness if you have an obsessive-compulsive personality disorder. However, this condition is different from obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

    People with OCD are usually aware of their irrational beliefs and behaviours, whereas those with obsessive-compulsive personality disorder aren’t.

    Signs and symptoms

    • A strong desire to be in control of tasks, people and situations
    • Stubbornness and inflexibility
    • Miserly and tight, particularly about spending money and budgeting
    • Profound perfectionism (which may cause distress and dysfunction when standards are not met). For example, you may need more time to complete a task due to your strict expectations.
    • Obsession with rules, orderliness and details

    Treatment for personality disorders

    man and woman hug during therapy

    Treatment for personality disorders can vary and depend on your history, the severity of your symptoms, and the type of disorder you have.

    Typically, treatment for a personality disorder may include the following:

    Studies show that untreated personality disorders can cause significant problems and complications in a person’s life that may worsen without treatment and support.

    If you think you have any personality disorder symptoms, you must speak to your doctor or mental health professional for advice.

    How White River Manor can help

    We treat and diagnose various mental health disorders and addictions at White River Manor.

    Our multidisciplinary team takes a holistic approach to recovery, meaning that we treat the ”whole” person and not just their symptoms.

    We offer various therapy and treatment programs to suit your needs and condition (s).

    Our team is trauma-informed and provides a safe, welcoming environment for recovery and healing to take place.

    If you are struggling with a personality disorder or other condition, speak to a friendly team member today who can help.

    Additional resources

    1. Personality Disorders, Mayo Clinic
    2. What are personality disorders? Rethink Mental Illness

    About Giles Fourie

    Giles Fourie is the director and co-founder of White River Manor. He is dedicated to providing the best care for clients seeking recovery from substance abuse, anxiety, depression, or co-occurring disorders.