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The ABC of Personality Disorders

The ABC of Personality Disorders

A personality disorder is a mental illness whereby someone thinks, feels, behaves, or relates to others very differently from the average person. But the severity, consistency and types of these behaviours can vary from person to person.

If you’re new to learning about this, you may be tempted to diagnose yourself or others with one of these by the time you’ve read this blog, but PLEASE see your GP if you are concerned, or advise a loved one to do the same.

It’s important to know that a personality disorder won’t be diagnosed unless the problems in question are inflexible and have an ongoing and distressing effect on at least two of the following areas:

  • Thoughts
  • Feelings
  • Relationships
  • Impulse control

A person also has to meet the minimum number of criteria for a personality disorder to be diagnosed.

Someone with a specific personality disorder can still show strong characteristics of other ones, or even be diagnosed with more; and someone can display behaviours that belong to one or more of these categories without having a personality disorder, so it doesn’t mean you have one just because some of these behaviours may feel familiar to you!

There are 10 types in total and they are split into 3 ‘clusters’. I can’t do justice to the intricacies of the illnesses here, so please bear in mind that this is just a brief overview of each...

Cluster A: Odd & Eccentric

Paranoid

Tend to be suspicious, hold grudges, and believe others have hidden motives. Easily feels rejected, doubts loyalty and feels that other people are being nasty to them (even when evidence proves it isn’t true). Often sensitive to criticism and can become easily angry and hostile.

Schizoid

Often quite detached, doesn’t desire to have relationships and prefers to be alone. Seen as emotionally cold, indifferent or even lacking in personality. Can have a rich fantasy world.

Schizotypal

Known to have odd ideas, eccentric behaviour and inappropriate emotional behaviour - or even show a lack of emotion. Can experience paranoia, severe social anxiety and can struggle to form close relationships. Even though it is on the Schizophrenia spectrum, someone with Schizotypal Disorder doesn’t experience psychosis.

Cluster B: Dramatic, Erratic & Emotional

Borderline

Often struggles to control emotions, feels bad about themselves (unstable self-image) and can even self-harm or attempt suicide. Often impulsive, does things spur of the moment, forms relationships quickly but often loses them easily. Fearing abandonment, paranoia and depression are common. Can hear noises, voices or experience disassociation when very stressed.

Antisocial

Doesn’t care much about other people's feelings, rarely feels guilt and doesn’t learn from bad experiences. Gets frustrated easily, can be aggressive, and often finds it difficult to form close relationships. Can be arrogant and charming in order to manipulate others. Run-ins with the law, and not caring about their own or others’ safety is common.

Narcissistic

Seen as arrogant, self-centred and demanding. Craves attention from others, has an inflated sense of self-importance, and often focuses on attaining unlimited power and success. Can be unhappy and disappointed when praise or special treatment isn't received. Often takes advantage of others, asks for favours but doesn’t return them, and shows few warm feelings.

Histrionic

Often dramatic, theatrical, self-centered and worried about appearance. Has a tendency to crave excitement, attention and new things. Can experience fleeting yet strong emotions, and often shows provocative and seductive behaviour. Can be easily influenced by others and often mistakes relationships for being more intimate than they are. Speech and mannerisms are used to draw attention.

Cluster C: Anxious & Fearful

Obsessive-Compulsive

Separate from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) but shares similar characteristics. A perfectionist, sticks rigidly to routines and gets preoccupied with details. Very cautious, and worries about doing the wrong thing. Sensitive to criticism, often judgemental, righteous, and feels a need to impose high moral standards on others. Finds it hard to express feelings and form close relationships.

Avoidant

Hypersensitive to rejection, extremely shy and often feels inadequate. Worries a lot, and spends a lot of time feeling insecure, inferior, anxious and tense. Dependant on being liked and accepted; and can fear criticism, embarrassment, disapproval, ridicule and intimate relationships.

Dependent

Characterised by an inability to be alone and needing constant reassurance. Incredibly passive, does what others want them to do, and relies on others for comfort, advice and decision-making. Often feels hopeless and incompetent and finds it difficult to carry out daily tasks. Fears rejection, abandonment and being alone.

Having just read this, please remember...

We are all human. And we all have strengths and weaknesses - personality disorder or no personality disorder. Obviously, there are people out there that show extreme behaviours connected to some of the more harmful personality disorders, and in certain cases, they can be a risk to themselves and others.

HOWEVER, this shouldn't blind us to the vast majority of people living with a personality disorder who mean and do no harm - they should not be avoided, feared, ridiculed or identified by their illness - but instead - they need to be supported in the areas they struggle with, just like we all do.

iHasco fully supports removing the stigma that surrounds mental health, and promotes tolerance and understanding of poor mental health and mental illnesses across the board.

Please see our Mental Health Awareness training to increase your understanding of poor mental health and to learn how to manage and improve your own mental wellbeing on a daily basis. 

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