What Is A Personality Disorder?

GinaMarie Guarino, LMHC

What Is A Personality Disorder?

A personality disorder (PD) is different from other mental health disorders. A patient with a PD will have unhealthy behavioral and thought patterns. These unhealthy patterns affect how the patient can function with others. PD causes strains in the patient’s personal relationships and concept of self.

A PD is not identified through emotional disturbance or psychosis. Instead, it is diagnosed based on the patient’s behavior and beliefs about themselves and the world.

Most people with a PD will also have emotional issues, but emotional issues are not needed for diagnosis. A person with a PD may also suffer from psychotic symptoms.

Most people with personality disorders are not aware they have a PD. A person with a PD is likely to blame others for their issues. They often do not realize how they contribute to their own issues. They see their behavior as ‘normal’ and not a cause of their struggles. This often leads to strain in relationships and social functioning.

There are several different types of PDs. Each PD has its own symptoms, but some have similar features. That is why professionals group the PDs into three clusters:

Cluster A: Odd or eccentric features.

Cluster A has disorders with behaviors, beliefs and habits that are odd to others.

Cluster A personality disorders include:

  • Schizoid personality disorder (SPD)
  • Paranoid personality disorder (PPD)
  • Schizotypal personality disorder (STPD)

Cluster B: Dramatic, erratic, or unpredictable features.

People with a cluster B disorder tend to struggle with people and relationships. Their behavior is often fueled by emotions or attention from others.

People with cluster B disorders tend to misinterpret appropriate interpersonal skills. They will not realize or take responsibility for these misinterpretations. They will also struggle with seeing their own responsibility in interpersonal issues. This tends to affect relationships.

Cluster B personality disorders include:

Cluster C: Anxious or fearful.

Cluster C disorders show behaviors and beliefs fueled by fear and anxiety. The anxiety can be related to interpersonal relationships, life issues, or self-image.

Cluster C personality disorders include:

Each PD is different, has different causes, and affects the patient differently. It can be difficult for a person with a PD to recognize or accept that there is something harmful about with the way they function. Because of this, it can be difficult for a person with a PD to make or maintain healthy relationships.

PDs are very difficult to treat. This is because it can be hard to break through to a person who has a PD. This makes it difficult to explain how their behavior negatively affects them. Treatment is different for each PD because each has different causes and symptoms.

Since treatment for PDs is difficult it is important to seek therapy from a professional trained in the specific PD diagnosis. Meeting with a professional who specializes in PDs will make a difference in treatment outcome.


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