What is a Personality Disorder?

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A personality disorder is a type of mental illness which causes individuals to have difficulty perceiving and relating to situations/people.

What are the symptoms of a personality disorder?

Personality disorder symptoms include: frequent mood swings, social isolation, anger outbursts, poor impulse control and a need for instant gratification.

Are there different types of personality disorders?

Yes, some of the more common personality disorders include:

Paranoid personality disorder - Individuals suffering from a paranoid personality disorder often distrust others while believing certain individuals are trying to harm them.

Schizoid personality disorder - Individuals suffering from a schizoid personality disorder typically lack interest in social relationships and appear dull or indifferent to others.

Borderline personality disorder - Individuals suffering from a borderline personality disorder often have an unstable mood while displaying impulsive/risky/suicidal behavior.

Histrionic personality disorder - Individuals suffering from a histrionic personality disorder constantly seek attention, are excessively emotional, extremely sensitive to others' approval and often have unstable moods.

Narcissistic personality disorder - Individuals suffering from a narcissistic personality disorder believe they are better or above others.

Dependent personality disorder - Individuals suffering from a dependent personality disorder have an extreme dependence on others.

Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder - Individuals suffering from an obsessive-compulsive personality disorder have an excessive preoccupation with orderliness and rules and a very strong desire to control situations.

If individuals are experiencing any of the aforementioned symptoms or believe they have a personality disorder should they contact their health care providers?

Yes, a personality disorder can be a very serious illness, which can dramatically impact an individual's life.

How is a personality disorder diagnosed?

A personality disorder is diagnosed by health care providers using criteria established in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).

If individuals are diagnosed with a personality disorder should they be encouraged to seek treatment?

Yes, an untreated personality disorder can lead to: social isolation, substance abuse, school/work problems, relationship difficulties, self injury and suicidal behavior.

How are personality disorders treated?

Health care providers may treat personality disorders with one or more of the following:

Psychotherapy - Psychotherapy is a form of counseling where individuals discuss their conditions with health care providers specializing in mental illness.

Cognitive behavioral therapy - Cognitive behavioral therapy is a specific form of psychotherapy where individuals learn how to replace negative thoughts and behaviors with positive ones.

Psychodynamic therapy - Psychodynamic therapy is a type of treatment which focuses on the psychological root of a patient's emotional state to help them develop coping mechanisms.

Medications - A health care provider may use one or more of the following medications to treat a personality disorder: antidepressants, benzodiazepines and/or antipsychotics.

About the Author

Marc Macera, PharmD, RPh's picture

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