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Explains personality disorders, including possible causes and how you can access treatment and support. Includes tips for helping yourself, and guidance for friends and family.
Currently psychiatrists tend to use a system of diagnosis which identifies ten types of personality disorder. These are grouped into three categories.
Emotional and impulsive:
Each personality disorder has its own set of diagnostic criteria. To get a specific diagnosis you must meet some of these criteria. The minimum amount you need to meet is different for different types, but it should always be more than one or two. If you meet criteria for more than one type this may be called mixed personality disorder.
It is also possible to get a diagnosis without meeting the full criteria for a specific type. This is known as personality disorder not otherwise specified (PD-NOS) or personality disorder trait specified.
A wide range of people may get the same diagnosis, despite having very different personalities and different individual experiences. Your experience of living with a personality disorder will be unique to you.
The thoughts, feelings and experiences associated with paranoia may cause you to:
This might become such a big problem in your life that you are given a diagnosis of paranoid personality disorder. See our page on paranoia for more information.
"I suffer from extreme paranoia and most people find this extremely irritating and become angry with me when I'm paranoid."
Many people with schizoid personality disorder are able to function fairly well. Unlike in schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder, you would not usually have psychotic symptoms. However, as a result of the thoughts and feelings associated with this diagnosis you may:
Everyone has their own eccentricities or awkward behaviours. But if your patterns of thinking and behaving make relating to others very difficult, you may receive a diagnosis of schizotypal personality disorder.
"I always feel rather 'thrown' when someone doesn't do what I expect them to do. Knowing there are lots of ways in which the problem could be approached would have made me feel a lot more prepared for what came next."
It is natural to sometimes put our own needs, pleasure or personal gain before those of others around us. However, if these actions occur very frequently and you struggle to keep stability in your life, or you regularly act impulsively out of anger or lack of consideration for others, this could lead to a diagnosis of antisocial personality disorder.
This diagnosis includes ‘psychopathy’ and 'sociopathy'. These terms are no longer used in the Mental Health Act but a ‘psychopathy checklist’ questionnaire may be used in your assessment.
Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is also known as emotionally unstable personality disorder (EUPD).
We can all experience difficulties with our relationships, self-image and emotions. But you might get a diagnosis of BPD/EUPD if these feel consistently unstable or intense and cause you significant problems in daily life.
When very stressed, sometimes you might:
BPD is currently the most commonly diagnosed personality disorder. You can read more about it on our pages on borderline personality disorder (BPD).
"BPD is like having no emotional buffer. I can go from nothing to suddenly extremely overwhelming emotions and I struggle with expressing them healthily."
Most people enjoy being given compliments or positive feedback about their actions. But if you depend very heavily on being noticed, or are seeking approval so much that this affects your day-to-day living, you might get a diagnosis of histrionic personality disorder.
"After being told my diagnosis I was then able to understand how and why I behaved the way I did: my life made a little bit more sense."
It is human nature to be aware of our own needs, to express them, and to want others to be aware of our abilities and achievements. These are not bad traits. However, if these thoughts, feelings and behaviours are very extreme and cause problems in relating to others, you may get a diagnosis of narcissistic personality disorder.
We all have things, places or people we don't like, or which make us anxious. But if these things cause so much anxiety that you struggle to maintain relationships in your life, you may get a diagnosis of avoidant personality disorder (sometimes also called anxious personality disorder).
See our pages on anxiety and panic attacks for more information on how to cope with anxiety.
It is natural to need other people to care for us or give us reassurance sometimes. A healthy balance involves being able to both depend on others as well as being independent from others sometimes. However, if feelings and thoughts about needing others become so overwhelming that they impact your daily life and relationships, you may get a diagnosis of dependent personality disorder.
Obsessive compulsive personality disorder (OCPD) is separate from obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), which describes a form of behaviour rather than a type of personality.
However, similarly to OCD, OCPD involves problems with perfectionism, the need for control, and significant difficulty being flexible in how you think about things.
This information was published in January 2020. We will revise it in 2023.
References are available on request. If you would like to reproduce any of this information, see our page on permissions and licensing.