WHAT IS A PERSONALITY DISORDER?

Even without any sort of disorder, we're all different in how we act, think and behave. Some of us may be introvert, others extrovert, some selfish, others greedy, some generous, others tight as a duck's ar...well anyway. These traits combined all come together to form our personality.

With that in mind, you'll see why personality disorders can affect much more of your life than many other mental illnesses. They can impact how you cope with life, the relationships you have with family and friends as well as how you feel emotionally. Given that we're talking about a series of conditions that affects your 'personality', the ones that are covered by 'Personality Disorders' can encompass all your thoughts, the way you behave and how you feel about any number of different aspects of your life.

For the most part, the people we are don't change all that much from when we are children or teenagers. Our personality certainly develops as grow and understand more about ourselves, our emotions (and how they work), the typical behaviour that others expect of us and how we understand world at large, but it doesn't fundamentally change very much from one day to the next. It develops slowly, as we do. All of these things, however small, are much more difficult if you have a personality disorder.

Personality disorders can manifest themselves in a number of different ways. For those living with them, their emotional range can seem limited, their behaviour may appear different from the 'norm' and their beliefs and attitudes to people can seem unusual. It can be difficult for other people to accept or cope with, meaning they often become isolated and upset.

When we're talking about personality disorders, we're talking about conditions that affect you all of time, but not those that come about as the result of a head injury or a traumatic event. As far as a diagnosis is concerned, most psychiatrists use an American system to identify their type. They are categorised into three 'clusters'; A, B and C. We have divided each condition into their respective clusters below.

Many of the personality disorders listed below are observed as being on a spectrum, with the level of their severity ranging from mild to severe. Another way to understand them is to categorise them into 3 different groups, depending on their symptoms; suspicious, odd or erratic (Cluster A), emotional, dramatic & impulsive (B) and anxious or fearful (C) disorders.

It is worth noting that, for some, the very definition of having a 'personality disorder' can be problematic. Some people don't like to be labelled with having a personality that is deemed to be somehow 'disordered'. Given that our personality is the very core of who we are, many disagree with being labelled with any of the disorders mentioned here.

Some psychiatrists don't believe many of these categories help as there is no scientific evidence for them, those diagnosed don't always fit perfectly into any one category and many are based on how people behave when they are in hospital or a specialist mental health facility, rather than out in the 'real world'. We mention it here purely for informational purposes.

WHAT CAUSES PERSONALITY DISORDERS?

Personality disorders usually only start to become apparent during the teenage years, but can occur before that. Until adolescence, we are still effectively finding our feet when it comes to who we are, so it can be difficult to differentiate being a typical 'moody teenager' as opposed to a definable personality disorder.

Of course, some of our personality is inherited from our parents. Whilst we are all different, some of the temperaments we display do come from our parents. There is evidence to suggest that particular family circumstances can make you more vulnerable to personality disorders, but it's not an exact science.

If you have, for example, a difficult childhood because your parents divorced, if you grew up in care, had different parental figures as you grew up, suffered neglect / abuse or you suffered an emotionally traumatic event at a young age, you may be more at risk of developing a personality disorder.

It's certainly not guaranteed that if any of those things happened to you then you will definitely develop a personality disorder, but many who do often share these kind of life histories.

THE SYMPTOMS

Each of the disorders listed below have their own set of symptoms, but generally the symptoms of the most common personality disorders include:

  • Difficulty in creating or maintaining friendships (or other relationships).
  • Being scared of other people and avoiding contact with others.
  • Finding it hard to work co-operatively in a team or group.

As a guideline, a personality disorder needs to follow the 'Three Ps', i.e. be problematic, persistent and pervasive

TYPES OF PERSONALITY DISORDERS

By reading our guides below, they will hopefully help you understand what those who live with these personality disorders go through on a daily basis and, for many, it will help break the stigma of mental illness.

Please note, Multiple Personality Disorder isn't listed here because, despite its name, it is classed as a Dissociative Disorder, not a Personality Disorder.

Cluster A

Cluster B

Cluster C

If you feel like there's a condition that has been omitted from this list that you think needs to be included, then please let us know. All the links for getting in touch are below.