Introduction To Personality Disorders

What is a Personality Disorder?

The term "Personality Disorder" implies there is something not-quite-right about someone's personality. However, the term "personality disorder" simply refers to a diagnostic category of psychiatric disorders characterized by a chronic, inflexible, and maladaptive pattern of relating to the world. This maladaptive pattern is evident in the way a person thinks, feels, and behaves. The most noticeable and significant feature of these disorders is their negative effect on interpersonal relationships. A person with an untreated personality disorder is rarely able to enjoy sustained, meaningful, and rewarding relationships with others, and any relationships they do form are often fraught with problems and difficulties.

To be diagnosed with a "personality disorder" does not mean that someone's personality is fatally flawed or that they represent some freak of nature. In fact, these disorders are not that uncommon and are deeply troubling and painful to those who are diagnosed with these disorders. Studies on the prevalence of personality disorders performed in different countries and amongst different populations suggest that roughly 10% of adults can be diagnosed with a personality disorder (Torgersen, 2005).

Many types of disorders are evidenced by a complete and total deviation from normal and healthy functioning (e.g., epilepsy). However, personality disorders cannot be understood independently from healthy personalities.  Since everyone has a personality (but not everyone has epileptic seizures), personality disorders reflect a variant form of normal, healthy personality. Thus, a personality disorder exists as a special case of a normal, healthy personality in much the same way as a square is a special case of the more general construct of a rectangle.   Therefore, it is useful for us to begin our discussion of personality disorders by first discussing the broader, more general construct of personality. 

Comments
  • c. hanna

    Personality Disorder is so vague that most of us at one time or another in our lives could fit under it. I find the Psychology field becoming more and more Orwellian (when it was at one time a good field). Imagine the world we are living in now, with all its stresses and how anyone that expresses any anger or emotion over their station in life can easily be classified under a number of these labels. It actually can finish a person for life, too. Once labeled they will be discriminated against. According to the Nation (I will include the article here at the end) the military is using "personality Disorder" as a reason not to pay benefits and disability claims. They say it is Pre-existing condition (from childhood). They are getting out of billions of dollars in disability and medical claims.

    The Pharmaceutical companies and places like the military are the key beneficiaries of all these bogus labels.

    Read this excellent article and what happened to one soldier after being wounded in Iraq:

    "DISPOSABLE SOLDIERS":

    http://www.americanpendulum.com/2010/04/disposable-soldiers/

    And pleeeeeaaase....don't let these doctors get you medicated on all the psychotropic drugs. Humanity has made it this far without such. They want to medicate all people that may beat to a different drum or who do not go along with the official lies.

  • Wife of a Bipolar Patient

    This is for "not buying it." Well, you better buy it because its real. It can accompany more serious disorders like bipolar disorder. Before I knew my husband's diagnosis I volunteered and saw imaging slides of brains of a "normal" person and the brain of someone mentally ill. Anybody, including you, could see the vast different between the two. Of course, someone would have to explain what the different colored lights mean. I suspect you could understand it if I did.

    Anyway, these are physiological disturbances that should not be set aside as different from having diabetes or arthritis. They all can ruin your life. There is prejudice towards this type of illness but yet someone can smoke themselves to death, drink themselves (or someone else to death), etc. and that's ok.

    Wake up America.

  • jc

    Hanna:

    I am with you. I am fed up with all these diagnosis'. My step father was by-polar so was my ex-husband. I am a single mom raising three children on my own, working full-time, etc. I am so fed up with people being diagnosed, other than a medical or true psychological or chemical disorder. I agree that stress and unfortunately LIFE, has caused some of us to have to pick up responsibilities that we were not made to have. God did not make the woman to carry a full load! I am mother and father and that makes me to have a "personality disorder" ??? I don't think so. It makes me angry when people just can't accept that some of us just have to work harder and, again, pick up the responsibilities of others, thus overwhelming us and I think I've done a pretty good job keeping my kids and myself healthy, sane and strong in faith! People just need to start trusting in GOD a little more!! Thanks. jc

  • jany

    Hi:

    There are many prejudices against psychiatrists prescribing drugs to treat people suffering from a personality disorder re Axis 2. I would like to reassure these prejudiced people that psychiatrists are very much aware of not over-prescribing drugs per se. As a registered nurse, I do medical transcriptions for two psychiatrists. It is through these confidential transcriptions that I am able to be sensitized to their professional consciousness as to not over-prescribe drugs. Psychiatry has realized great progress through the years in treating people suffering from mental illnesses as these persons seek help without hurting their pride...as was the case many years ago.

    It is up to us to have the patience to listen to these people when they have the urge to confide re their mental condition...In this fast world that we live in, we often don't take time to listen to them, or try to help them out. Psychiatrists do! and they are qualified to do so.

    Let's take time to reduce the stress in our daily lives and live an energetic and healthy way of life.

    Thanks

    Jany

  • Anonymous-1

    still dont understqand what personalty disordre is and dont know what to do.

  • Jeanne RN

    The brain, like any other organ, can have disease. It may be genetic, physiologic or chemical. We have to realize that metal illness is just that. An illness. It should be treated as such. There should never be a stigma attached to any mental illness or imbalance. This includes depression, anxiety, bipolar, etc.

    Jeanne RN

  • Natalie J.

    I honestly think there is no such thing as a personality disorder really because people use them only to blame who they really are and just get away with whatever they can. Its rediculous!! You need to quit blaming a disorder on how you act! This is why people can't trust each other and also why the country is in such a bad situation. People need to take responsiblitiy for their actions. I'm only 17 and I have had a rough life and I almost started to think I had a personality disorder because I use to cut myself but I got my crap together and worked through all my difficult times and never looked back. Thats not to hard. So don't hide behind a "disorder". Just Pray God will help you.

    Natalie J.

  • Marie C

    Nathalie, people can go through difficult times when they sometimes start to hurt themselves to feel better. It is great that you have gotten over. Thank God that you are now healthy. However, to cut onself is not a personality disorder. It is a symptom that might accompany a personality disorder, but it is not a personality disorder on its own. When a person has a personality disorder it really isn't easy for them to get over it. With help from therapists they can, of course, reduce their symptoms, but the disorder will remain.

    I agree with you that people shouldn't use disorders as an excuse to get to do what they want, but you also have to take into consideration that there are some things that are just too difficult to control at times, and we should understand the positions that others are in.

  • Michelle

    Natalie....

    It's a SHAME how iIGNORANT you are about people with REAL disorders, not the teenage "oh feel sorry for me' bullshit!! My Husband has a personality disorder and it effects me and our children GREATLY!!! I pray for YOU! That maybe someday, you'll actually expand your knowledge about personality disorders! Instead of rude comments like the one you listed....someone who knows what their talking about, would enter a comment filled with compassion for those dealing with such things in their lives!

    Your pitiful!

  • Gabby Lampman

    I am so addicted to women attention I cant stand it. Even just a smile can turn me on to a hot women

  • I. S.

    To people like Natalie, who believe there is no such thing as a personality disorder but at the same time believe in the invisible man in the sky known as god, wake up!

    I have family who are fanatically religious so I have nothing against people with a belief system which helps them cope with problems and fears. I just don't happen to believe in something which is completely intangible.

    Personality disorders, on the other hand, are more than tangible if you open your eyes and look around. I personally know quite a few people diagnosed with such disorders and it is painfully obvious that they wouldn't torture themselves with a disorder if they could control it.

    All the selfish people posting here are complaining about their own convenience being affected and therefore can't even fathom that maybe people with these disorders aren't really benefiting from them by "using it as an excuse" but are internally tortured themselves by their inability to properly behave due to personality disorders.

    I'm betting most people who don't believe in personality disorders, have disorders themselves which need to be worked on.

    Dr. Dombeck's Note: We have a very comprehensive introduction to personality disorders which you can read to learn more about them.

  • Alice P.

    Thanks so much for this very comprehensive discussion--all 63 pages!!--of personality disorders. It has given me a much greater understanding of some of my own difficulties...and it has given me hope--something that has been seriously lacking in my life for years. In the process, it is has given me some insight into my husband--who is apparently a healthy-minded individual. I have only fairly recently begun to understand that not everybody experiences life as I do. My way of experiencing life has just always seemed so real to me, that for most of my years I never really understood there was an alternative to my perception of life. Thus, I had no patience at all nor any understanding as to WHY anyone would question my perceptions--and I certainly couldn't understand why they wouldn't be persuaded to see things as they truly are!! (That is said tongue-in-cheek). I am still not changed, but I do at least see the edge of some hope that perhaps things can be different for me (after 51 years of life that has pretty much been fraught with nothing but pain for me). I am anxious to have my husband read this article, as I believe it will give him further insight--he already does try to understand me and what I go through--into how/why I behave the way I behave...to finally know that it truly is not directed AT him, that it is simply the way my thoughts/emotions have been processed for as long as I can remember.

  • phil

    actually natilie its people like you that is why your country is the way it is. people do actually suffer from problems. my brother is border line autism and probably about 6 other things like ADHD PDD GDD and other developmental disorders. and you think he flipping uses it as a shroud. you cut yourself for attention thats all anyone uses it for. but thank you i may have an answer to my question. i was on this site to research if i may have a problem and i was in a fine mood until i read your comment which put me into a blind rage.

    ps.

    why on AHEM "gods" green earth would you be on this site if you knew for a fact that you just grew up and moved on. you have a lot more growing up and moving on to do babe

  • Karen

    To those who don't believe in personality disorders then how did you end up here? Obviously you were searching psychiatry issues and now are just thinking you are being funny or its hit a real sore spot for you. Get yourself some help you obviously need it.

    Do you also believe in no such thing as autism? My daughter has it since she was born. How can she be pretending since a baby?

    Everyone just ignore these goofballs because they're obviously trying to play mind games or are extremely scared because its hit them personally in life.

  • PleaseChange

    Interesting. My niece was diagnosed with BPD when she was 15. However, she could not get an official diagnosis until 18 (which was just turned). Now that she has a diagnosis, she can access services not available to her or the people responsible for her, such as a residential treatment through state funds. She has no life skills, so she'll need whatever help she can get. My Mother recently took her to her primary doc for a physical. She told the doctor about the diagnosis and disability. The doctor told my niece to get a job. He advised her that lots of people with BPD go to medical school. I guess what he missed is that people who go to med school most likely come from families with resources. If my family had the resources to send her to a residential treatment school when she was 14, I probably wouldn't be writing this comment.

  • Mary

    Natalie, are you for real? Or are you just a very sick person trolling these types of discussion boards to get people responding to nonsense?

    If you're only 17, then you haven't lived long enough to know what you're talking about.

    If you're trolling, then find another outlet. People who are trying to figure out what their world is messed up are, in fact, people who will want to take responsibility for their lives. You should pray for forgiveness for judging people you don't know.

  • Anonymous-2

    To the authors -- this is an excellent article, descriptive and fair both to the people with personality disorders and the folks who find them (us) hard to get along with.

    I have worked on myself A LOT -- therapy, self-help books, self-help groups, spirituality, you name it. Never had an official diagosis of a definite personality disorder, though in the 1990s I thought that may be the reason therapy didn't seem to work for me. But in the 1990s therapists (that I went to) weren't looking for personality disorders because insurance wouldn't cover it, because there was no good evidence that therapy helped personality disorders anyway. Arghhh!!!

    Taking a "descriptive" approach, as these authors do, is an essential step. Ostracizing folks with PD's because we don't easily get along with other people just leaves us ostracized and outside the mainstream -- and frequently not very productive in addition to being personally miserable.

  • Jay

    If someone thinks that personality disorders are too broad and seem to apply to almost anyone, they would be half right. The other half is that most haven't experienced someone who truly has severe antisocial or borderline or any PD for that matter. Being open-minded and careful around this topic would serve the general public well.

  • Irwin Lebow

    I have gone through this excellent article, but was surprised to find no mention of PTSD as a possible source for personality disorders.

  • june

    im studying this does actors that sing have this order as there seems to be alot of elvis actors around

  • Diane

    I found this very informative. Frightening, but informative. I wish none of it was real, I wish it was all something made-up. But it is real, and I have to accept the help that is offered to me. Those who don't believe in this because you have "pulled" yourself together through difficulties, please remember that if you don't have the disorder, you don't know what it's like not to know yourself. I can't just "get a grip." I did not choose this. It is no joy-ride or excuse.

  • rustypete

    Good article. I sometimes feel crazy, which doesnt bother me but it's the lonelyness caused by my own seperation from other people that really sucks. I often feel like the square peg in a world of round holes and i'm sure people i come in contact with just think i'm anti-social. Maybe my malady isnt so uncommon.

  • Shannon

    I think it is so sad that we live in a society of disposable people. It is so easy to ignore the illness in mental illness and shrug your responsibilities as a human being rather than showing some compassion and putting forth genuine effort to help someone that you do not like. How do you think it really benefits the world for us to simply turn our backs on the mentally handicapped? Perhaps it doesn't matter what it does for the world at large as long as YOU don't have to deal with it! My boyfriend of 11 years is sociopathic and paranoid schizophrenic. Life with him can be infuriating but among the softer kinder qualities he possesses, he is also the father of my 7 year old son who has Asperger's. Asperger's Syndrome (for those of you who do not know), is a disorder on the Autism Spectrum and another excuse for bad behavior. At least these people have an excuse for their poor social skills. Anyone who thinks and openly expresses that mental illness is an intentional social faux pa has no excuse. Even ignorance wouldn't touch it.

  • Darla

    I agree with alot of people on here that a reffering to Natallie's comments. Ignorance is not always the fault of the direct person. Maybe Natalie's family are the ones more ignorant on the subject and that's all she ever learned. However as a "young one" like herself..... she will find out the mistake in her comments today. Though there are only a small percentage of us according to statistics, I guarentee Natalie will not be able to avoid life without one of us "ridiculous crazy people" in hers on a personal level. Then she will most likely have a change of opinion. I just hope it is not one of her own children. Because then she will get to understand the ultimate stress it causes on family members, children, parents carrying guilt....ect. I suffer and I have 2 out of 4 children that suffer. It is the worst at times. I can assure you Natalie....we do not USE AN EXCUSE. Please educate yourself more so you do not have to upset so many people. One thing with Borderline is that it takes a trigger....Don't be that trigger. It makes you no better than the online bullies that everyone despises and can not respect.

    Sorry to be so blunt but that's what us "crazy" people do.

  • Anonymous-3

    Hello everyone our name is irrelevant and yes we share one body, our host here is trying to figure out what he should do because he's not tired of hearing us or anything he just wants to collect benefits cause well we're not all that good at keeping a job due to the fact some of us are batsh*t crazy, honestly if you ask me I think we all are caus of the fact for the past 5 years he's not only forgotten chunks of his past, but has created a whole new "persona" accent and all in which he's been utilizing to manipulate humanity for god knows what reason... knowing our host he's forgotton, the last time we talked to a psyche councilor we were in the military and she told us we could never be in a personal relationship, those words haunt him and made him so sad he pretty much stopped his prescription furthered himself from society and is now about to crash... lol I'm sure he's loving the fact he gets to watch me type this instead of him (actually he's kind of frustrated) thats all! cheers

  • Gary Calhoun H.S. DO.

    What the articale proves IS that at lease 99.9999% of ALL Mental Health Professionals ARE IGNORANT, STUPID, ILLITERATE, INCOMPETENT, NEGLIGENT, and SERIOUSLY MENTALLY SICK!!!

    2 + 2 =4 in any language one translates it. But the Mental Health Professionals can NOT agree on much of anything. That is why it is DSM-5 and NOT DSM-1 that is now being used. IF they knew what they were doing then there would NOT so many changes. Then after studing psychology for over 50 years the peoblem IS those that believe they know so much but when faced with the facts they show they are just DELUSIONAL.

    Personality Disorder should be completely removed. A person that is anti-social is a person that is anti-social. They may also be narcasistic or have other problems.

    What i have found when i see personality disorder is usually the Mental Health Professional just does NOT like the persons personality or what they might say or do EVEN if it IS RAIONAL, SCIENTIFIC and SANE. So they say they have a personality disorder.