Personality is a combination of thoughts and behaviors that are unique to each individual.  It is the way everyone views the world and yourself. In general, individuals with personality disorders have different perceptions of life and thought processes. Within each individual's culture there are norms in which they are expected to follow. Individuals with personality disorders deter from these cultural norms and expectations. In most cases, individuals do not even realize that they are behaving differently than others around them. Usually individual's perspective in their thinking process and actions are normal. 

A personality disorder, as defined in the DSM-IV-TR (2000), is an enduring pattern of inner experience and behavior that deviates markedly from the expectations of the individual's culture, is pervasive and inflexible, has an onset in adolescent or early adulthood, is stable over time, and leads to distress or impairment. Within the DSM-IV-TR (2000) there are ten recognized personality disorders, they are grouped into three clusters (A, B and C). The personality disorder must result in distress or impairment in areas of functioning such as school, home life, or occupational. Personality disorders are not limited to one area of a person's life but can be pervasive throughout (American Psychiatric Association, 2000). The clusters are as follows with main characteristics of each (American Psychiatric Association, 2000; Emedicine, 2010)

Cluster A (odd or eccentric)

  • Paranoid Personality Disorder - distrust, suspiciousness
  • Schizoid Personality Disorder - detached, aloof, solitary
  • Schizotypal Personality Disorder - discomfort in close relationships, odd or magical thinking, odd behavior, unusual perceptual experiences

Cluster B (dramatic, emotional)

  • Antisocial Personality Disorder -repeated unlawful behavior, lack of remorse, deceitfulness
  • Borderline Personality Disorder - unstable sense of self and relationships with others, impulsivity
  • Histrionic Personality Disorder - excessive emotionality and attention seeking behavior
  • Narcissistic Personality Disorder - grandiosity, need for admiration, lack of empathy

Cluster C (anxious, fearful)

  • Avoidant Personality Disorder - fear of rejection, shyness, feelings of inadequacy
  • Dependent Personality Disorder - submissive, clinging behavior, fear of separation
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder - orderliness, perfectionism, inflexibility, rigidity

What Causes Personality Disorders?

Causes of personality disorders are thought to occur when the individual is younger.  Research indicates that individual's personalities are shaped during their youth and is shaped through two main factors: genetics and environment. It is thought that if something is altered in a mentally unhealthy way, that that the individual's mind is ill-equipped and a personality disorder can be created. The way this happens is that individuals are thought to have a genetic vulnerability to personality disorders and a factor in the environment or your current life situation may trigger the development of a personality disorder (Medicine, 2010).

Tips for Dealing with Personality Disorders

  • If someone you know has a personality disorder, locate appropriate psychological support. Ask the provider if they have experience working with personality disorders. Note the person with the personality disorder may be resistant to treatment, this is why and experience professional is necessary.
  • Treatment may include discovering coping mechanisms. Some coping mechanisms may include simplifying one's life, cutting back on obligations and schedule goals, writing in a journal, expressing what you are feeling, or even reading about the problem through self-helps books and discussing them with your therapist.


American Psychiatric Association (2000). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. (4th ed., text revised). Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.

Emedicine (2010).  Retrieved December 12, 2010 from