• Personality Disorders: An Overview

    IMAGE Personality disorders are chronic mental illnesses that can range from mildly unsettling to severe. They arise from a person’s home environment, as well as from genetic and chemical causes. Treatment options include psychotherapy (counseling), medicines, and self-help approaches. Some people may need the personalized attention that only hospitalization can provide.
    A personality disorder must fulfill several criteria. They cannot be diagnosed just on the basis of one characteristic. People with personality disorders have an inflexible pattern of understanding people, thinking, and behaving that makes it difficult to adjust to their environment. This is serious enough to affect their functioning. But, in some cases, people with personality disorders may not think they have a problem or may not want to change. Personality disorders are usually recognizable by adolescence and continue throughout adulthood, and they become less obvious throughout middle age.
    The following information is an overview of ten clinically diagnosed personality disorders and their symptoms.

    Antisocial Personality Disorder

    With antisocial personality disorder, there is a pattern of disregarding or actually violating others’ rights, which usually includes most of the following:
    • Failure to conform to lawful behaviors
    • Deceitfulness
    • Impulsiveness
    • Irritability and aggression
    • Disregard for safety
    • Irresponsibility
    • Indifference to or rationalizing having hurt, mistreated, or stolen from another

    Avoidant Personality Disorder

    A pattern of feelings of inadequacy, extreme sensitivity, and social inhibition, which usually involves:
    • Avoidance of interpersonal contact
    • Fear of being shamed or ridiculed
    • Preoccupation with being criticized or rejected socially
    • Acting inhibited in new interpersonal situations because of feelings of inadequacy
    • Feelings of being socially inept, unappealing, and inferior
    • Fear of blushing or crying in front of others

    Borderline Personality Disorder

    With borderline personality disorder, there is a pattern of instability and shallowness in one’s personal relationships, usually related to one’s self-image and marked by:
    • Impulsiveness in areas that are potentially self-damaging
    • Frantic efforts to avoid abandonment
    • Recurrent suicidal talk and/or behaviors or self-mutilating behavior
    • Episodes of extreme irritability or anxiety
    • Feelings of emptiness
    • Paranoia

    Dependent Personality Disorder

    A chronic need to be taken care of along with a fear of being abandoned. Symptoms include:
    • “Clinging” behavior
    • Difficulty making everyday decisions on one's own
    • The need for others to assume responsibility for most major areas of life
    • Difficulty initiating projects or doing things on one's own
    • Excessive need to please others
    • Feelings of helplessness when alone

    Histrionic Personality Disorder

    Excessive emotionality and attention seeking, demonstrated by:
    • Discomfort at not being the center of attention
    • Provocative or sexually inappropriate behavior
    • Rapidly shifting and shallow emotions
    • Overly theatrical and dramatic emotional expression
    • Being easily influenced by others or circumstances
    • The belief that relationships are more intimate than they actually are

    Narcissistic Personality Disorder

    A chronic need for admiration, a lack of empathy with others, and absorption with oneself, usually including:
    • A grandiose sense of self-importance
    • Preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
    • Belief that he is “special” and should only associate with other special people
    • A need for excessive admiration
    • Taking advantage of others
    • Being unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others

    Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder

    With obsessive compulsive personality disorder, there is a preoccupation with orderliness, perfectionism, and control—at the expense of flexibility and efficiency—demonstrated by:
    • Preoccupation with details, rules, lists, order, organization, or schedules
    • Excessive devotion to work and productivity
    • Exclusion of leisure activities and friendships
    • Over-conscientiousness about matters of morality and ethics
    • A reluctance to delegate
    • Rigidity and stubbornness

    Paranoid Personality Disorder

    A pattern of distrust and suspicion, often demonstrated by:
    • Suspicion that others are exploiting, harming, or deceiving him
    • Unjustified doubts about others’ loyalty or trustworthiness
    • Fear of confiding in others
    • Reading hidden meanings into harmless remarks or events
    • Unforgiving attitudes
    • Quick, angry reactions

    Schizoid Personality Disorder

    A pattern of being detached from and unemotional in social relationships, demonstrated by:
    • Avoidance of close relationships
    • Solitary activities
    • Little, if any, interest in sexual relationships
    • Pleasure in few, if any, activities
    • Lack of close friends or confidants other than immediate family members
    • Indifference to others’ praise or criticism

    Schizotypal Personality Disorder

    A pattern of acute discomfort with close relationships, combined with distortions of thought and perception, and eccentric behavior, demonstrated by:
    • Odd beliefs that influence behavior
    • Unusual perceptual experiences, including bodily illusions
    • Suspicion and paranoia
    • Odd, eccentric, or peculiar behavior and attitudes
    • Lack of close friends or confidants other than immediate family members
    • Excessive anxiety around others


    Mental Health America http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/

    National Institute of Mental Health http://www.nimh.nih.gov/


    Canadian Psychiatric Association http://www.cpa-apc.org/

    Canadian Psychological Association http://www.cpa.ca/


    American Psychiatric Association. DSM IV TR. 4th ed. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association; 2000.

    Factsheet: personality disorders. Mental Health America website. Available at: http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/go/information/get-info/personality-disorders . Updated November 2008. Accessed August 6, 2008.

  • LiveWell personal health survey

    How healthy are you really? Find out – free.Learn more

    It's time to stop guessing. If you want to make some changes but just aren't sure how, the free personal health survey from LiveWell is a great place to start.

  • HeartSHAPE Spotlight

    At risk for a heart attack? Learn more

    Fight heart disease and prevent heart attacks. HeartSHAPE® is a painless, non-invasive test that checks pictures of your heart for early-stage coronary disease.

  • Calories and Energy Needs

    Calorie NeedsLearn more

    How many calories do you need to eat each day to maintain your weight and fuel your physical activity? Enter a few of your stats into this calculator to find out.

  • Ideal Body Weight

    Ideal Body WeightLearn more

    Using body mass index as a reference, this calculator determines your ideal body weight range. All you need to do is enter your height.

  • Body Mass Index

    Body Mass IndexLearn more

    This tool considers your height and weight to assess your weight status.

  • Can we help answer your questions?

    Wellmont Nurse Connection is your resource for valuable health information any time, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Speak to a Nurse any time, day or night, at (423) 723-6877 or toll-free at 1-877-230-NURSE.