Personality Disorder Symptoms, Causes and Effects

Personality disorders are a type of mental disorder that can damage lives and relationships if left undiagnosed and untreated. People who have personality disorders can express a wide range of emotions and behaviors that are considered detrimental to relationships, causing friends and family to withdraw from the individual. If you believe that you or someone you know could have a personality disorder, give us a call at to learn about treatment.

What Are the Types of Personality Disorders?

Several broad categories of personality disorders exist, each with a defining characteristic. Disorders can co-occur, and symptoms can blur together. Personality disorders can lead to suicide; according to the National Institute of Mental Health, 90 percent of people who commit suicide have a diagnosable mental disorder. The New York Times lists the types of personality disorders as follows:

Paranoid Personality Disorder

Individuals affected by paranoid personality disorder have a general suspicion that everyone is out to mistreat them. The condition usually does not extend into full-on psychosis such as schizophrenia.

Schizoid Personality Disorder

This condition tends to cause patients to avoid social interaction and be indifferent to social cues. The disorder extends beyond introversion; introverts occasionally enjoy socializing.

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Antisocial Personality Disorder

People with antisocial personality disorder have a noted disregard for the rights and feelings of others, often performing criminal acts for personal gain.

Borderline Personality Disorder

Borderline personality disorder causes patients to have unstable emotions and mood swings. Unlike bipolar disorder, it does not usually occur in cycles.

Histrionic Personality Disorder

This condition is characterized by acting in an overly dramatic or emotional way, usually as a bid to draw attention.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Named for the figure from Greek mythology, narcissistic personality disorder causes patients to have an inflated view of self or their importance, often at the expense of others.

Avoidant Personality Disorder

People with avoidant personality disorder are often extremely shy and harbor feelings of inadequacy. They are very hesitant to confront others about their problems or to express their feelings.

Dependent Personality Disorder

People who have dependent personality disorder have difficulty functioning without the aid or encouragement of others.

Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder

This condition is characterized primarily by a compulsion to engage in repetitive behaviors and repetitive thought patterns.

What Causes a Personality Disorder?

Personality disorders are caused by a mixture of genetic factors, such as a family history of disorders and upbringing. People who have a dysfunctional home life in early childhood and adolescence can develop personality disorders in later life. For example, a lack of constructive criticism or excessive praise could foster narcissistic personality disorder. It takes knowledge of a person’s background and family history to pinpoint what causes a personality disorder, and it is not an exact science.

What Are the Signs of a Personality Disorder?

Personality disorders are classified in three types of behaviors: eccentric behavior, dramatic or erratic behavior, and anxious or fearful behavior. Displaying atypical behaviors can be a sign of a disorder, but professional evaluation will offer a more accurate diagnosis.

Emotional Symptoms of Personality Disorders

The emotional symptoms of personality disorders vary between disorders and express themselves to varying degrees with each person, according to the Mayo Clinic. For example, people with avoidant personality disorder have an extreme aversion of conflict, allowing others to take advantage of them. Other symptoms can include poor impulse control and a propensity for substance abuse.

Physical Symptoms of Personality Disorders

Personality disorders affect the mind, but they can drive people to neglect their physical health as well. Someone affected by schizophrenia or a similar condition, for example, may neglect personal hygiene or suffer from insomnia due to fearful thoughts, while a person who is obsessive-compulsive may have raw skin from excessive washing. Because a personality disorder is difficult to diagnose by someone who lacks the necessary medical background, a detailed psychiatric evaluation is usually required.

Short-Term and Long-Term Effects of a Personality Disorder

Personality disorders have several effects on the psyche over time, both in the short- and long-term. They include, but are not limited to, the following:

Is There a Test or Self-Assessment I Can Do?

Self-diagnosis of a psychological disorder is usually unfeasible simply because you have an inherent bias and will be unable to accurately report your own symptoms. Even if you attempted to diagnose someone else, you would likely have a bias too. Moreover, it’s necessary to have face-to-face interaction with a psychologist who can diagnose disorders, using an interview and long-term observation. Although numerous tests exist on the Internet, none of them can give you a definitive or accurate result.

Medication: Personality-Modifying and Mood-Stabilizing Drug Options

Medications exist to assist with treatment of personality disorders. Medications should only be taken under the supervision of a physician.

Personality-Stabilizing Drugs: Possible Options

Mood stabilizers can help deal with the more extreme symptoms of personality disorders, but they will not take effect immediately, and the patient will also likely require behavioral or cognitive therapy. Several types of medication are available via prescription. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and monoamine oxidase inhibitors are both used to treat depression. Common brand names include Prozac, Paxil and Zoloft. Mood stabilizers such as lithium supplements are also used.

Medication Side Effects

Personality disorder medication can have several side effects, including, but not limited, to:

Drug Addiction, Dependence and Withdrawal

Drug addiction can exacerbate the symptoms of a personality disorder or create an entirely separate problem. Someone whose disorder causes them to lose contact and damage relationships with loved ones may turn to drugs as a source of comfort. An individual suffering from a personality disorder may resort to drugs abuse as an outlet for the stresses of daily life, but when that person tries to stop drug use, withdrawal symptoms may set in because of the body’s previous dependence on the drug.

Medication Overdose

As a person becomes more accustomed to using drugs, such as prescription drugs, they will likely begin taking a gradually higher dose to get the same effect. In extreme cases, this can lead to death. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, 38,329 people died of prescription drug overdoses in 2010, with many of them due to opioid-based painkillers.

Depression and Personality Disorders

Depression can be a component of several types of personality disorders, or it can be a secondary symptom. A lack of social interaction or a loss of interest in hobbies can lead to depression. It often co-occurs with other personality disorders, such as avoidant personality disorder or phases of bipolar disorder.

Dual Diagnosis: Addiction and Personality Disorders

Substance abuse and addiction often coexist with a personality disorder. BioMed Central published a study that showed that 46 percent of people with a substance use disorder suffer from at least one personality disorder; however, symptoms can overlap and can be hard to diagnose. If the patient is admitted to a drug rehab facility, the staff will often conduct dual diagnosis assessments to identify the presence of a comorbid condition and to determine the best course of personality disorder treatment.

Getting Help for a Personality Disorder

People will usually not seek help for a personality disorder on their own until the consequences are dire or until someone intervenes. This is due to the inherent bias involved in self-diagnosing personality disorders; some may simply be in denial about their emotional problem, while others may see their struggles as a natural part of their personality rather than an illness.

Medication is one component of treatment, but many personality-altering medications are available by prescription only. You will need to consult a physician or mental health professional for an evaluation. After this, you or your loved one will be prescribed the appropriate medication and placed on a regimen.

The other part of treatment deals with thought processes. Negative thought processes can be dealt with through behavioral therapy or by attending support groups of people with similar disorders who are recovering from them. To get help for a personality disorder for yourself or someone you know, you can call us at . Our operators are available and can point you to resources and treatment at any time. It’s never too late to turn things around.

Additional Resources

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