A group of conditions marked by a failure to learn from experience or to adapt appropriate to changes, leading to distress, impaired social functioning, and in certain cases, occupational issues. Personality disorders are patterns of abnormal behaviour that can become particularly obvious during periods of stress. They are often first recognised in adolescence and can continue throughout life, usually leading to anxiety or depression. Personality disorders are not the result of another psychiatric disorder or as a result of substance abuse.
Specific types of personality disorders are divided into three main groups, but there is usually an overlap between them.
The first group is characterised by eccentric behaviour. Paranoid people show suspicion and mistrust of others; schizoid people are cold emotionally; and schizotypal personalities have behaviour differences similar to, but less extreme, that those of schizophrenia.
In the second group, behaviour is more dramatic. Histrionic people are excitable and constantly crave attention. Narcissists have a heightened sense of self-importance. People with anti-social personality (formerly called pyschopaths) disregard accepted standards of behaviour and show no concern for other people’s rights and feelings. People with borderline personality disorder behave extremely impulsively; their emotions, self-image and relationships are unstable.
People in the third group show fear and anxiety. Dependant personalities lack the self-confidence to function in an independent way. Those who have avoidant personalities are hyper-sensitive to criticism and rejection and cautious about new experiences. Those with obsessive-compulsive personalities are extremely rigid in their habits.
Personality disorders are often difficult to treat. Treatment options include pyschtherapy, counselling, and behaviour therapy. The treatment can need to be undergone for a long time, however, affected people may not always comply with guidance from therapists or doctors.