Are you or a loved one experiencing unhealthy thought patterns and unexpected behaviors? Individuals suffering from personality disorders think, behave and function differently from others. Although it can be difficult to tell if someone is coping with a mental illness, certain symptoms can act as warning signs.
What are personality disorders?
Personality disorders (PDs) refer to a complex group of mental illnesses that can adversely affect our thought and behavior patterns. Sufferers tend to experience rigid and unhealthy thoughts, emotions and behaviors which affect various aspects of their lives, such as education, career, relationships, social interactions etc. They also find it difficult to deal with daily stressors & challenges.
A recent study explains “Personality disorders are pervasive, maladaptive, and chronic patterns of behavior, cognition, and mood.” It makes us develop a distorted perception of our reality, react abnormally and leads to impaired functioning. Research also shows that sufferers are prone to emotional, behavioral, interpersonal dysregulation, intimate partner violence and comorbid mental disorders. PDs have been described as “a disease in disguise” and are associated with poor health, inferior quality of life and premature mortality.
PDs can affect the following aspects of our lives –
- How we perceive and think about ourselves & others
- How we emotionally react to internal and external factors
- How we manage and regulate our emotions
- How we relate to, connect and interact with others
Studies reveal that about “10% of people in the general population” are affected by this complex mental health problem. Onset is typically experienced during adolescence or early adulthood. However, it can often be difficult to to realize that you or a loved one may have this disorder as your thoughts, behaviors and actions will seem natural to you. This is why it is crucial that you learn to identify the early signs of personality disorders.
Related: The 16 MBTI Personality Types
Types of personality disorders
Before we can delve into the warning signs of PDs, we need to gain a better understanding about the different forms through which this group of mental illnesses may manifest in someone. Personality traits tend to lie on a spectrum. There are different types of personality disorders which can manifest differently in individuals.
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-5), PDs can be classified into 3 clusters and categorized into 10 different types, namely –
1. Cluster A personality disorders
People belonging to this cluster are regarded as eccentric, suspicious and odd. They find it hard to trust others, see daily challenges as threats and are unable to trust others. Cluster A includes the following disorders –
- Paranoid personality disorder (distrust & suspicion)
- Schizoid personality disorder (disinterest in interpersonal relationships)
- Schizotypal personality disorder (odd & eccentric thoughts & behaviors)
2. Cluster B personality disorders
Cluster B is marked by erratic, dramatic and overly emotional behavior. Sufferers tend to have poor self-image and severe, yet unstable emotions. They behave impulsively, are unable to manage relationships and control their emotions. These disorders involve:
- Antisocial personality disorder (manipulation, disregard for other people & social irresponsibility)
- Borderline personality disorder (emotional dysregulation, emptiness & unstable relationships)
- Histrionic personality disorder (overly emotional & attention seeking)
- Narcissistic personality disorder (manipulation, excessive self-importance & lack of empathy)
3. Cluster C personality disorders
These disorders are identified as anxious/avoidant PDs as sufferers tend to be fearful or anxious in general. They are mostly introverted, have low self-confidence, avoid relationships due to insecurities, tend to be perfectionists and may allow others to dominate them. Cluster C includes the following conditions –
- Avoidant personality disorder (rejection sensitivity, avoidance of relationships)
- Dependent personality disorder (neediness and submissiveness)
- Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (stubbornness, rigidity & perfectionism)
Are you experiencing symptoms of personality disorders?
A person suffering from a personality disorder may not be able to realize that they may have some psychological or behavioral problems. They often appear to be confused, unstable, and frustrated with others surrounding them. They may also have trouble setting boundaries for themselves and understanding personal boundaries set by others. They tend to have excessively high or low self-esteem which significantly affects their behavior and relationships. A person with PDs can be detached, overly emotional or dramatic, manipulative, abusive and have an unhealthy parenting style. As a result, they usually have toxic relationships with their partners and children. Moreover, it can also lead to medical and psychological issues in the sufferer’s spouse and/or children.
Personality disorders can be typically identified by the following primary signs, as per the DSM-5 –
1. Issues with self-image
People with PDs may have self-image issues and an inconsistent self-identity. If you are suffering from a personality disorder then you may have difficulty deciding whether you are cruel or kind. As your self-perception fluctuates repeatedly, you will have self-contradicting and unpredictable appearances, behaviors, goals and values.