Types of personality disorders

Explains the different types of personality disorder 

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What types of personality disorders are there?

Right now, psychiatrists use a method to diagnose that spots ten different types of personality disorder. These are sorted into three groups:

Anxious

  • Avoidant personality disorder
  • Dependent personality disorder
  • Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD)

Emotional and impulsive 

  • Antisocial personality disorder (ASPD)
  • Borderline personality disorder (BPD)
  • Histrionic personality disorder
  • Narcissistic personality disorder

Suspicious

  • Paranoid personality disorder
  • Schizoid personality disorder
  • Schizotypal personality disorder

Each personality disorder is defined by a specific set of diagnostic criteria. For a precise diagnosis, an individual must satisfy a certain number of these criteria. The required minimum varies across different disorders but consistently exceeds one or two. Should an individual meet the criteria for multiple types, they may be identified as having a mixed personality disorder.

It’s also possible to receive a diagnosis if you don’t meet all the criteria for a particular type. This is referred to as personality disorder not otherwise specified (PD-NOS) or personality disorder trait specified.

Many different people might receive the same diagnosis, even though they have very different personalities and unique personal experiences. How you live with a personality disorder will be completely individual to you.

Controversial

Our understanding of personality disorders is always growing, and it’s a topic that often leads to debate. People have different opinions about the terms used, and not everyone agrees on them. The key thing to know is that living with a personality disorder can be very tough. No matter how you see your diagnosis or what words you use to describe it, you should always get support and understanding.

Paranoid personality disorder

The thoughts, feelings, and experiences linked to paranoia might lead you to:

  • find it really hard to trust others, fearing they will exploit or take advantage of you
  • see threats and danger (which others don’t notice) in everyday situations, harmless comments, or casual glances from others. This could become such a significant issue in your life that you are diagnosed with paranoid personality disorder.
  • have trouble relaxing
  • struggle to open up to people, including friends and family

Schizoid personality disorder

Many people with schizoid personality disorder manage to get by quite well. Unlike with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder, you generally wouldn’t experience psychotic symptoms. However, due to the thoughts and feelings tied to this diagnosis, you may:

  • find it hard to connect with or appear emotionally distant to others.
  • like spending time alone with your thoughts
  • struggle to build close relationships with others
  • choose to live your life without others getting involved
  • not find much enjoyment in various activities
  • show little interest in sexual relationships or intimacy

Schizotypal personality disorder

Everyone has their own quirks or awkward habits. But if the way you think and behave makes it really hard to get along with people, you might be diagnosed with schizotypal personality disorder. Unlike schizophrenia, you generally wouldn’t have psychotic episodes.

However, you might:

  • feel anxious and tense around people who don’t share these beliefs
  • become very anxious and paranoid in social settings, making it difficult to relate to others.
  • think and speak in ways others find unusual or strange, using odd words or phrases, which makes it tough to connect with them
  • have thoughts or perceptions that are a bit distorted
  • believe you can read minds or have special abilities like a ‘sixth sense’
  • struggle a lot to form close relationships

Antisocial personality disorder

It’s normal to sometimes prioritise our own needs, enjoyment, or personal benefit over those of others. However, if these behaviours happen very often and you find it difficult to maintain stability in your life, or if you act on impulse without thinking about others due to anger or inconsideration, you might be diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder.

You could:

  • put yourself in dangerous or risky situations without thinking of the consequences for yourself or others
  • engage in dangerous and sometimes illegal activities (you might have a criminal record)
  • act in ways that upset others
  • get bored easily and act impulsively, such as struggling to keep a job for long
  • show aggression and get into fights easily
  • do things that could harm others to achieve what you want, placing your needs above everyone else’s
  • have difficulty with empathy, for instance, not feeling or showing guilt after mistreating someone
  • have been diagnosed with conduct disorder before turning 15.

This diagnosis includes the terms ‘psychopathy’ and ‘sociopathy’, which are no longer used under the Mental Health Act. However, a ‘psychopathy checklist’ questionnaire might be used in your assessment.

Borderline personality disorder (BPD)

Borderline personality disorder (BPD), also called emotionally unstable personality disorder (EUPD), is a condition we all might find some resonance with when it comes to struggles with relationships, how we see ourselves, and our emotions. However, you might be diagnosed with BPD/EUPD if you regularly find these areas of your life feel unstable or very intense, leading to major issues in your everyday life.

You may:

  • often feel empty and lonely
  • engage in self-harming activities
  • make impulsive decisions and engage in risky behaviours that could harm you (such as overeating, using drugs, or reckless driving)
  • experience emotions that are extremely strong and can shift rapidly (for instance, feeling very cheerful and confident in the morning but becoming downcast and sad by the afternoon)
  • face other mental health issues alongside BPD, including anxiety, depression, eating disorders, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
  • lack a clear sense of your identity or desires in life, with your views on this changing drastically depending on whom you’re with
  • have difficulty trusting others
  • become very angry and find it hard to manage your anger
  • find it challenging to form and maintain stable relationships or friendships
  • be deeply concerned about others leaving you, going to great lengths to prevent it or conversely, pushing them away
  • have thoughts about ending your life

 

When very stressed, sometimes you might:

  • feel paranoid
  • have psychotic experiences, such as seeing or hearing things that other people don’t
  • feel numb or ‘checked out’ and not remember things very well after they’ve happened (known as dissociation).

BPD is currently the most commonly diagnosed personality disorder.

Histrionic personality disorder

Most people like receiving compliments or positive remarks about what they do. However, if you rely too much on getting noticed, or seek approval to the extent that it impacts your everyday life, you could be diagnosed with histrionic personality disorder.

You may:

  • act on impulse
  • be easily swayed by others.
  • believe you must entertain others
  • always look for, or feel you need, other people’s approval
  • flirt or dress in an eye-catching way to make sure you stay in the spotlight
  • feel really uneasy if you’re not the focus of attention
  • become known as someone who’s very dramatic and overly emotional

Narcissistic personality disorder

It’s natural for us to know our own needs, to talk about them, and to wish for others to recognise our skills and accomplishments. These aren’t negative qualities. However, if these thoughts, feelings, and actions are extremely intense and lead to difficulties in getting along with others, you might be diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder.

You may:

  • be viewed as self-centred and either dismissive or oblivious to the needs of others.
  • think you have special reasons that set you apart, making you superior or more entitled than others
  • feel envious of other people’s achievements
  • get upset if others overlook you and don’t provide what you believe you’re owed
  • prioritise your needs over everyone else’s, expecting them to do the same
  • have a delicate sense of self-worth, depending on others to acknowledge your value and needs

Avoidant personality disorder

We all have things, places, or people that we’re not fond of or that make us feel nervous. However, if these cause so much worry that you find it hard to keep up relationships in your life, you might be diagnosed with avoidant personality disorder (sometimes also known as anxious personality disorder).

You may:

  • stay away from relationships, friendships, and closeness because you’re
  • scared of being turned down
  • anticipate criticism and be very sensitive towards it
  • worry about being mocked or shamed by others
  • feel lonely, cut off, and less than others
  • avoid jobs or social events that require you to be around others
  • hesitate to try new things for fear of embarrassing yourself.
  • constantly fear being exposed and rejected

Dependant personality disorder

It’s normal to want others to look after us or offer reassurance now and then. A healthy balance means being able to rely on others while also having the ability to be independent at times. However, if thoughts and feelings about needing others become so intense that they affect your everyday life and relationships, you might be diagnosed with dependent personality disorder.

You may:

  • feel needy, ‘weak’, and unable to decide or manage daily tasks without others’ help or support
  • view others as much more competent than yourself.
  • let or need others to take charge of many parts of your life
  • be very scared of having to cope on your own
  • have little self-confidence
  • agree to things you believe are wrong or dislike to avoid being by yourself or losing someone’s support

Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD)

Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD) is different from obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), with the former being about a personality type rather than specific behaviours.
Yet, like OCD, OCPD includes issues with wanting everything to be perfect (perfectionism) , a strong desire to be in control, and a notable struggle with being adaptable in your thoughts.

Personality disorder not otherwise specified (PD-NOS)

Everyone is unique and acts in their own special ways, meaning it’s common not to fit exactly into the categories mentioned before. If you show traits of a personality disorder but not enough to completely match a specific type, you might be diagnosed with personality disorder not otherwise specified (PD-NOS). This condition might also be called personality disorder trait specified (PD-TS). While these terms seem contradictory, they both highlight that you exhibit some traits of a personality disorder but not enough to be classified under a single type.

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