Personality Disorders

A personality disorder is a mental condition in which an individual has difficulty coping with other people and situations, and react inappropriately to them. Those who have a personality disorder may have trouble expressing their emotions, “fitting in” socially or have trouble controlling their impulses. Although they feel that their behavior patterns are normal, they tend to be inflexible in their thinking and unable to respond to life’s changes and challenges. They may even blame others for the way they feel. 

The American Psychiatric Association classifies personality disorders into three clusters based on symptom similarities:

Cluster A (paranoid, schizoid, schizotypal):  Patients appear odd or eccentric to others.
Cluster B (antisocial, borderline, histrionic, narcissistic):  Patients appear overly emotional, unstable, or self-dramatizing to others.
Cluster C (avoidant, dependent, obsessive-compulsive):  Patients appear tense and anxiety-ridden to others.

Every person is different, so no individual’s symptoms fit neatly into one of the three clusters. It is possible for patients to have symptoms of more than one personality disorder or to have symptoms from different clusters.

General symptoms of a personality disorder

  • Mood swings and irritability
  • Selfishness
  • Unstable relationships
  • Deceitfulness
  • Self-importance, exaggeration and fantasizing
  • Extremely self-conscious, self-critical, self-loathing
  • Social isolation and difficulty making friends
  • Indifference and detachment
  • Aggression
  • Arrogance
  • Suspicion and mistrust of others
  • A need for instant gratification
  • Impulsive behavior and instability
  • Unbending, stubborn and incapable of change
  • Alcohol or substance abuse


There is no clear cause for personality disorders, but genetics, environment and childhood experiences are thought to play a role. Personality disorders usually begin in adolescence, but those who suffer from them usually do not seek treatment until their behavior has caused severe problems in their relationships or work. They also may seek treatment for depression or chemical dependency, which can occur with some types of personality disorders.


Treatment plans vary, depending on the type and severity of personality disorder. Psychotherapy is the primary treatment, in which clients learn new coping skills, cognitive restructuring and emotional control needed to help them take control of their lives. Medications may be used to treat depression or mood swings.

If you, or someone you know has symptoms of a personality disorder, call (402) 717-HOPE.