Personality Disorders

Personality Disorders

There are more than 3 million people diagnosed with BPD in the US every year

Get a Quick Glimpse

What Is It?

A personality disorder is an umbrella term for several types of mental disorders that are characterized by fixed and unhealthy patterns of thinking, functioning and performing. Someone with a personality disorder has difficulty relating to different situations and people. This causes challenges in relationships, social settings, work and school.

The Science Behind It

Personality is the mix of thoughts, emotions and behaviors that makes a person unique. It's the way one feels, processes and relates to the outside world, as well as how an individual sees themselves. Personality forms during childhood and adolescence, and is molded by:

Genes. Certain personality traits can be passed down by a parent(s). These traits may refer to one’s temperament.

Environment. This involves the home and area a person grows up in, formative events that take place, and relationships that form between a person and their family members and friends.

Personality disorders are influenced by a combination of these genetic and environmental factors. One’s genes may make a person more vulnerable to developing a personality disorder, and a life situation may trigger the actual development.

Warning Signs

Personality Disorders are grouped into three “clusters”, each with their own subset of symptoms and warning signs.

Cluster A. These personality disorders are identified by eccentric thinking or behavior. Paranoid personality disorder, schizoid personality disorder and schizotypal personality disorder fall under this category. Someone with a Cluster A disorder may:

  • Perceive innocent remarks or non-threatening situations as personal insults or attacks
  • Hold unnecessary grudges
  • Lack interest in establishing social or personal relationships
  • Have a limited range of emotional expression
  • Dress, think, believe, speak or behave in odd or unusual ways.
  • Perceive things that are not real, like hearing a voice or receiving a message.

Cluster B. These personality disorders are described by dramatic, overly emotional and unpredictable thought patterns and behaviors. Antisocial personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, histrionic personality disorder and narcissistic personality disorder are all Cluster B disorders. A person with this type of personality disorder may:

  • Ignore others' needs and feelings
  • Lie, steal, use aliases, and con others
  • Partake in impulsive and risky behavior, such as having unsafe sex, gambling or binge eating
  • Possess a sensitive and fragile self-image
  • Constantly seek attention
  • Project as excessively emotional, dramatic or sexually provocative in order to gain attention
  • Believe that they are gifted and more important than others
  • Have fantasies about power, success and attractiveness

Cluster C. These personality disorders are characterized by anxious and fearful behavior. Avoidant personality disorder, dependent personality disorder and obsessive-compulsive personality disorder are all Cluster C disorders. A person with this type of personality disorder may:

  • Be overly sensitive to criticism
  • Feel inadequate, inferior or unattractive
  • Depend on others and feel the need to be taken care of
  • Act submissively or clingy towards others
  • Fixate on details, orderliness and rules
  • Practice excessive perfectionism, and devolve into dysfunction and distress when perfection is not achieved.

Common Misconceptions

Personality Disorders are not treatable

Personality Disorders are often treated with a combination of medication and psychotherapy

All people with Personality Disorders are victims of childhood abuse

The cause is generally seen as a combination of biological and environmental factors, rather than linked to any one cause.


  • Psychotherapy—such as dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or psychodynamic psychotherapy. Learning ways to cope with emotional dysregulation in a therapeutic setting is often the key to long-term improvement for those experiencing a Personality Disorder.
  • Medications There are no medications specifically approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat personality disorders. However, several types of psychiatric medications may help with various personality disorder symptoms. Antidepressants, mood stabilizers, antipsychotic medications, and anti-anxiety medications may be prescribed depending on one’s symptoms and type of disorder.
  • Short-term hospitalization may be necessary during times of extreme stress and/or impulsive or suicidal behavior to ensure safety.

Go Deeper

Sourced from

Medical Disclaimer: Brain Health Bootcamp aims to promote education and awareness of mental health conditions among adolescents, families, and educators. We publish material that is researched, cited, and drawn from sources reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.