Kd's e-pathsala Psychology of Adjustment Personality Disorder : Overview

Personality Disorder : Overview

A person’s characteristic ways of responding are often referred to as his or her personality. Personality is both complex and unique in that individuals differ greatly from one another in multiple components of behaviour. Most people’s personality styles do not affect their behavior similarly in all situations. Personality styles can be maladaptive, if an individual is unable to modify his or her behaviour when the environment undergoes significant changes that call for different approaches. If personality characteristics are not flexible enough to allow an individual to respond adaptively to at least an ordinary variety of situations, disorder be present.

Have you ever known someone who was highly suspicious and mistrustful of others in virtually all situations? How about someone who seemed to believe that the world revolved around him/her-that he or she was the most important individual on earth? Someone who seemed to have no conscience whatsoever, never experiencing guilt or regret no matter how much he or she hurt others? These may well have been people with what psychologists term personality disorders.


According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), a personality disorder is “a way of thinking, feeling and behaving that deviates from the expectations of the culture, causes distress or problems functioning, and lasts over time”.


A personality disorder is a type of mental disorder in which you have a rigid and unhealthy pattern of thinking, functioning and behaving. A person with a personality disorder has trouble perceiving and relating to situations and people.

Different Types/Symptoms of Personality Disorders

The DSM-5 divides personality disorders into three distinct cluster, so let’s take a look at some of the traits that fit under these categories.


  • Cluster A (Odd and eccentric behavior)

Paranoid personality disorder : Tense, guarded, suspicious; holds grudges.

Schizoid personality disorder : Socially isolated, restricted emotional expression

Schizotypal personality disorder : Peculiarities of thought, appearance, and behavior that are disconcerting to others; emotionally detached and isolated.

  • Cluster B (Dramatic, emotional, or erratic behavior)

Antisocial personality disorder : Manipulative; exploitive; dishonest; disloyal; lacking in guilt; habitually breaks social rules; childhood history of such behavior; often in travel with the law.

Borderline personality disorder : Can’t stand to be alone; intense, unstable moods and personal relationships; chronic anger; drug and alcohol abuse.

Histrionic personality disorder : Seductive behavior; needs immediate gratification and constant reassurance; rapidly changing mood; shallow emotions.

Narcissistic personality disorder : Self-absorbed; expects special treatment and adulation; envious of attention to others.

  • Cluster C (Anxious of fearful behavior)

Avoidant personality disorder : Easily hurt and embarrassed; few close friends; sticks to routines to avoid new and possible stressful experiences.

Dependent personality disorder : Wants others to make decision; needs constant advice and reassurance; fears being abandoned.

Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder : Perfectionistic; over conscientious; indecisive; preoccupied with details; stiff; unable to express affection.


How Is a Personality Disorder Diagnosed ?

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), is a reference doctors and mental health professionals use to help diagnose mental health conditions. Each personality disorder has criteria that must be met for a diagnosis. A primary care or mental health provider will ask you questions based on these criteria to determine the type of personality disorder. We can diagnosed personality disorder from of some features of personality disorder, which is as follow:

  1. Early onset; evident at least since late adolescence
  2. Stability; no significant period when not evident
  3. Pervasive; evident across a wide range of personal, social, and occupational situations
  4. Clinically significant maladaptive, resulting in personal distress or impairment in social and occupational functioning.


Causes of Personality Disorder

Research suggests that genetics, abuse and other factors contribute to the development of obsessive-compulsive, narcissistic or other personality disorders. In the past, some believed that people with personality disorders were just lazy or even evil. But new research has begun to explore such potential causes as genetics, parenting and peer influences:


  • Genetics : Researchers are beginning to identify some possible genetic factors behind personality disorders.
    • One team, for instance, has identified a malfunctioning gene that may be a factor in obsessive-compulsive disorder.
    • Other researchers are exploring genetic links to aggression, anxiety and fear-traits that can play a role in personality disorders.
  • Childhood trauma : Findings from one of the largest studies of personality disorders, the Collaborative Longitudinal Personality Disorders Study, offer clues about the role of childhood experiences.
    • One study found a link between the number and type of childhood traumas and the development of personality disorders. People with borderline personality disorder, for example, had especially high rates of childhood sexual trauma.
  • Verbal abuse : Even verbal abuse can have an impact. In a study of 793 mothers and children, researchers asked mothers if they had screamed at their children, told them they didn’t love them or threatened to send them away. Children who had experienced such verbal abuse were three times as likely as other children to have borderline, narcissistic, obsessive-compulsive or paranoid personality disorders in adulthood.
  • High reactivity : Sensitivity to light, noise, texture and other stimuli may also play a role.
    • Overly sensitive children, who have what researchers call “high reactivity,” are more likely to develop shy, timid or anxious personalities.
    • However, high reactivity’s role is still far from clear-cut. Twenty percent of infants are highly reactive, but less than 10 percent go on to develop social phobias.
  • Peers : Certain factors can help prevent children from developing personality disorders.
    • Even a single strong relationship with a relative, teacher or friend can offset negative influences, say psychologists.
Source: American Psychological Association


Treatment of Personality Disorder
Because many people with personality disorders never come to clinicians’ attention, researchers have studied only a limited sample of this group. People with personality disorders may not seek clinical help because they see the environment as the source of their problems. They are also likely to behave appropriately much of the time; thus their problems do not cause others to refer them for treatment. Therapeutic approaches from each of the perspectives, sometimes in combination, are used for treating these individuals. These include a variety of psychoactive drugs, behavioral techniques such as assertiveness training and systematic desensitization, cognitive therapies, and psychodynamic therapies. A family or group therapy approach is also used to focus on the effects of the behaviors on others.