Personality disorders are continuous and longstanding, seen in a wide range of situations and relationships.

What are personality disorders?

Each person’s personality is a unique combination of their genetics, life experience and natural characteristics that guides how they experience the world and interact with others. In some ways, it’s what makes everyone an ‘individual’ and ‘unique’.

For some, however, the pattern of how they behave and experience others significantly interferes with their daily life. In personality disorders, patterns of thinking, emotions, communication, relationships, and impulsiveness are problematic to the point of causing ongoing distress and interference in daily life. Personality disorders are continuous and longstanding, seen in a wide range of situations and relationships.

What are the signs and symptoms of personality disorders?

The signs and symptoms of personality disorders may be different for individuals based on the specific diagnosis given. See below for a brief description of each.

  • Paranoid personality disorder: mistrust and suspiciousness with the belief other people are harmful
  • Schizoid personality disorder: disinterest in social relationships and a limited range of emotions
  • Schizotypal personality disorder: lack of comfort with others, odd behaviour and distortions to thinking and perceptions
  • Antisocial personality disorder: disregard and violation of the rights of others
  • Borderline personality disorder: unstable self-image, emotions and relationships along with significant impulsivity
  • Histrionic personality disorder: excessive emotionality and attention-seeking behaviour
  • Narcissistic personality disorder: need for admiration, need to feel important and lack of empathy/caring for others
  • Avoidant personality disorder: extreme social shyness, feeling inadequate and significant difficulty receiving negative feedback
  • Dependent personality disorder: submissive and clinging behaviour and an excessive need to be taken care of
  • Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder: need for orderliness, perfectionism and control

While some of the above signs and symptoms are present at times in everyday life, those with a personality disorder will experience the patterns above chronically to the point that it interferes with their daily life.

How are personality disorders treated?

There are different treatment options that can be helpful in reducing symptoms or distress related to personality disorders. Personality disorders often present with other mental health diagnoses, so treatment of any other mental health diagnosis that presents with personality disorder is important.

Talk therapy is an important treatment option in personality disorders. The exact type differs based on the specific diagnosis (e.g. cognitive behavioural therapy, dialectical behavioural therapy). These can be done either individually or in a group.

For some individuals, medications can also be helpful to manage certain symptoms.

Self-care (e.g. eating a balanced diet, sleeping well at night, regular exercise, socialization and moderated alcohol and drug use) is also an important step in staying healthy. Support from family and friends can also be an important part of treatment.

What should I do to get help?

If you or a friend or family member is suffering with symptoms of a personality disorder, it is important to see your family doctor or speak with a mental health professional available through the mental health and substance use centre in your community.

Given that symptoms of a personality disorder can be present for many different reasons, accurate diagnosis is the most important step towards successful treatment.