Personality Disorders

Personality Disorders

Personality disorders are a complex category of mental health disorders that are often poorly understood by the general public and mistaken for other issues. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual 5th Edition (DSM-5), which is a guide that psychologists use to diagnose mental health disorders describes personality disorders as:

“An enduring pattern of inner experience and behaviour that deviates markedly from the expectations of the individual’s culture, is pervasive and inflexible, has an onset in adolescence or early adulthood, is stable over time, and leads to distress or impairment.”

There are currently ten different types of personality disorders as defined by the DSM-5.

        1. Paranoid personality disorder is a pattern of distrust and suspiciousness such that others’ motives are interpreted as malevolent.
        2. Schizoid personality disorder is a pattern of detachment from social relationships and a restricted range of emotional expression.
        3. Schizotypal personality disorder is a pattern of acute discomfort in close relationships, cognitive or perceptual distortions, and eccentricities of behaviour.
        4. Antisocial personality disorder is a pattern of disregard for, and violation of, the rights of others.
        5. Borderline personality disorder is a pattern of instability in interpersonal relationships, self-image, and affects, and marked impulsivity.
        6. Histrionic personality disorder is a pattern of excessive emotionality and attention seeking.
        7. Narcissistic personality disorder is a pattern of grandiosity, need for admiration, and lack of empathy.
        8. Avoidant personality disorder is a pattern of social inhibition, feelings of inadequacy, and hypersensitivity to negative evaluation.
        9. Dependent personality disorder is a pattern of submissive and clinging behaviour related to an excessive need to be taken care of.
        10. Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder is a pattern of preoccupation with orderliness, perfectionism, and control.


Personality disorders are often mistaken for other conditions including anxiety disorders, mood and depressive disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, psychotic disorders and substance use disorders. A key part of personality disorders is that they are enduring traits of behaviour that often appear before early adulthood and do not just appear in the context of the onset of an episode of another mental health condition.

There are several common misconceptions about personality disorders that even extend to mental health issues in general. One is that people with personality disorders are violent. This is not backed up by evidence which suggests that only 3-5% of violent acts are associated with some sort of mental illness. Furthermore, people with severe mental health issues are more than ten times as likely to be the victim of a violent crime than the general population.

Another myth is that people with personality disorders can not live a normal life. There is a lot of hard work that goes in to working through the issues that result from the impacts of a personality disorder. But that does not mean that there is nothing you can do! A lot of people seek help and through a mix of therapy, medication, lifestyle changes and social support are able to live rich and fulfilling lives even after being diagnosed with a personality disorder.

If you feel like you or someone you know is showcasing symptoms of a personality disorder, tell them to get in contact with a mental health professional as there is help out there!



Edition, F. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders. Am Psychiatric Assoc, 21(21), 591-643.

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