Skip to main content
Explore URMC

URMC Logo

menu
URMC / Encyclopedia / Content

Personality Disorders

What are personality disorders?

For people without a personality disorder, personality traits are patterns of thinking, reacting, and behaving that remain relatively consistent and stable over time. People with a personality disorder display more rigid thinking and reacting behaviors that make it hard for them to adapt to a situation. These behaviors often disrupt their personal, professional, and social lives.

What are the most common types of personality disorders?

Generally, personality disorders are divided into 3 subtypes (or clusters), and include the following:

Subtype

Classification

Cluster A:

odd/eccentric

Cluster B:

dramatic/erratic

Cluster C:

anxious/inhibited

Examples of odd/eccentric (Cluster A) personality disorders

  • Paranoid personality disorder. People with this disorder are often cold, distant, and unable to form close, interpersonal relationships. They are often overly suspicious of their surroundings without good reason. People with paranoid personality disorder generally can't see their role in conflict situations. Instead, they often project their feelings of paranoia as anger onto others.

  • Schizoid personality disorder. People with this disorder are often cold, distant, introverted, and have an intense fear of intimacy and closeness. People with schizoid personality disorder are absorbed in their own thinking and daydreaming. Because of this, they exclude themselves from attachment to people and reality.

  • Schizotypal personality disorder. Similar to those with schizoid personality disorder, people with this disorder are often cold, distant, introverted, and have an intense fear of intimacy and closeness. Yet, with schizotypal personality disorder, people also show disordered thinking, perception, and ineffective communication skills. Many symptoms of schizotypal personality disorder look like schizophrenia, but are less intense and intrusive.

Examples of dramatic/erratic (Cluster B) personality disorders

  • Borderline personality disorder. People with this disorder are not stable in their perceptions of themselves. They have trouble keeping stable relationships. Moods may also be inconsistent, but never neutral. Their sense of reality is always seen in "black and white." People with borderline personality disorder often feel as though they lacked a certain level of nurturing while growing up. As a result, they constantly seek a higher level of caretaking from others as adults. This may be achieved through manipulation of others, leaving them often feeling empty, angry, and abandoned. This may lead to desperate and impulsive behavior.

  • Antisocial personality disorder. People with this disorder characteristically disregard the feelings, property, authority, and respect of others for their own personal gain. This may include violent or aggressive acts involving or targeting other individuals, without a sense of regret or guilt for any of their destructive actions.

  • Narcissistic personality disorder. People with this disorder present severely overly-inflated feelings of self-worth, grandness, and superiority over others. People with narcissistic personality disorder often exploit others who fail to admire them. They are overly sensitive to criticism, judgment, and defeat.

  • Histrionic personality disorder. People with this disorder are overly conscious of their appearance and are constantly seeking attention. They also often behave dramatically in situations that don't warrant this type of reaction. The emotional expressions of people with histrionic personality disorder are often judged as superficial and exaggerated.

Examples of anxious/inhibited (Cluster C) personality disorders

  • Dependent personality disorder. People with this disorder rely heavily on others for validation and fulfillment of basic needs. They often can't properly care for themselves. People with dependent personality disorder lack self-confidence and security, and have a hard time making decisions.

  • Avoidant personality disorder. People with this disorder are very sensitive to rejection. Because of  this, they avoid situations with any possible conflict. This reaction is fear-driven. People with this disorder become disturbed by their own social isolation, withdrawal, and inability to form close, interpersonal relationships.

  • Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder. People with this disorder are adverse to change. They are bothered by a disrupted routine due to their obsession for order. They have anxiety and trouble completing tasks and making decisions. People with obsessive-compulsive personality disorder often become uncomfortable in situations that are beyond their control. They have trouble maintaining positive, healthy interpersonal relationships as a result.

Treatment for personality disorders

Specific treatment for each personality disorder will be determined by your healthcare provider based on your age, overall health, and medical history.

Personality disorders are often hard to treat. They may need long-term attention to change the inappropriate behavior and thought patterns. Treatment may include:

  • Medicine (although medicine may not be used correctly and has limited effectiveness)

  • Psychological treatment (including family involvement)

People with personality disorders may need to try a number of therapists and types of therapies before they find a combination that works.

Medical Reviewers:

  • Ballas, Paul, DO
  • Fraser, Marianne, MSN, RN