Understanding Personality Disorders: Overview of 10 Types & Possible Treatments

Personality disorder

Did you know that about 9% of adults in the U.S. and about 6% of people worldwide live with a personality disorder?

According to the DSM-5-TR, personality disorders are constant patterns of inner experience and behavior that significantly deviate from the individual’s culture. This pattern manifests itself in two or more of these areas:

  • Cognition – how individuals perceive and understand themselves, others, and various situations.
  • Affect – the scope, strength, variability, and suitability of emotional reactions.
  • Behavior – specifically focusing on the ability to control impulses.

Therefore, these conditions make people think, feel, and behave in ways that differ from what society and/or local cultures usually expect.

Despite being prevalent, personality disorders are often difficult to diagnose because it’s hard to differentiate them from unique personality traits. However, they are serious mental health issues that can make life quite challenging.

In this article, we’ll provide an informative guide to help you understand the 10 specific types of personality disorders and explore effective ways to treat them.

An Overview of the 10 Types of Known Personality Disorders

Let’s imagine personality disorders as a tree, with its branches divided into three clusters, each unique and fascinating.

The DSM-5, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, groups these disorders into Clusters A, B, and C, each representing different categories of characteristics:

  • Cluster A: Odd and Eccentric
  • Cluster B: Dramatic and Emotional
  • Cluster C: Anxious and Fearful.

In total, there are 10 recognized disorders, each with its own distinct behaviors, thoughts, and feelings.

Let’s take a look at the specific features of each cluster and find out the key characteristics of 10 types of personality disorders.

Cluster A: Odd or Eccentric

Disorders within Cluster A often involve behaviors that may seem strange or unusual to others. These disorders can lead to difficulties in relating to others, as the behaviors often disrupt social interactions.

1. Paranoid Personality Disorder

This condition is marked by a lack of trust and deep suspicion toward others, which leads to an interpretation of their intentions as harmful or malevolent.

People with this disorder are often suspicious of others. They might think people are out to get them, even when there’s no reason to believe so. For example, if a friend forgets to call them back, they may believe it’s an intentional act of hostility.

According to studies, the estimated prevalence of Paranoid Personality Disorder ranges from 1.21% to 4.4% (Lee, 2017).

2. Schizoid Personality Disorder

People with Schizoid Personality Disorder are typically more comfortable in solitude. They tend to be detached, lack interest in forming close relationships, and often seem aloof or indifferent to others.

For example, an individual might consistently choose to stay in with a book or a movie over going out with friends, even on special occasions. This is not out of shyness or fear, but due to a genuine preference for solitude.

Studies suggest that only up to 1% of the general population may have Schizoid Personality Disorder, and there is no significant difference between males and females (Fariba et al., 2022). However, according to genetic studies, the heritability rates of this disorder are as high as 30% (Reichborn-Kjennerud, 2010).

3. Schizotypal Personality Disorder

People with Schizotypal Personality Disorder often exhibit odd or eccentric behaviors and have unusual beliefs. This could manifest in a range of eccentric behaviors and anomalies in thinking or behavior, such as strange dress styles, peculiar speech, or even a belief in having special powers like telepathy or superstitions that are outside cultural norms. For instance, a person might claim to predict future events or read minds.

These eccentricities can lead to difficulties in forming relationships and may cause significant social and occupational impairments.

According to Global Emergency of Mental Disorders, the prevalence of Schizotypal Personality Disorder is estimated to be around 3.9% in the US population (Moini, 2021).

Cluster B: Dramatic, Emotional, or Erratic

Personality disorders falling under Cluster B are distinguished by their theatrical, excessively emotional, or erratic patterns of thought and action.

People who are diagnosed with disorders in this cluster often find it challenging to regulate their feelings, which can lead to unpredictable emotional responses. This can result in intense but unstable relationships and self-image issues.

1. Antisocial Personality Disorder

People with Antisocial Personality Disorder tend to disregard the rights of others and often violate societal norms, which can lead to criminal behavior. For example, they might lie or cheat without feeling guilt or remorse.

This type of personality disorder usually develops in early childhood (diagnosed as “conduct disorder”). If antisocial behaviors persist, they may convert to antisocial personality disorder at the age of 18 (Black, 2015).

The prevalence of Antisocial Personality Disorder is estimated to be between 1% and 4% in the general population (Werner et al., 2015).

2. Borderline Personality Disorder

Borderline Personality Disorder is defined by extreme fluctuations in mood, impulsive actions, and inconsistent relationships. A person with this disorder might have a sudden change of feelings toward someone they care about, from intense love to intense hate. Usually, they consistently fear that people will abandon them, and as a result, they exhibit self-harming behaviors.

This type of disorder is also referred to as emotionally unstable personality disorder (EUPD). Interestingly, according to studies, about 75% of people diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder are women (Skodol & Bender, 2004). One explanation is that being sensitive is more acceptable behavior for women than for men. Therefore, women might be more likely to seek help for their symptoms, which leads to a higher reported incidence.

The overall prevalence is estimated to be around 1.6% in the general population (Chapman, 2022).

3. Histrionic Personality Disorder

Individuals with Histrionic Personality Disorder are often seen as the ‘life of the party’. They constantly seek attention and behave overly dramatically to get it. For example, they might wear excessively flashy clothes to a casual event or monopolize conversations to keep the focus on themselves.

In order to feel comfortable, these people require to get others’ attention and sometimes, they deliberately display socially inappropriate behaviors for this purpose.

This disorder is estimated to affect less than 2-3% of the general population (French & Shrestha, 2022).

4. Narcissistic Personality Disorder

People with Narcissistic Personality Disorder often have a grandiose sense of self-importance, a need for excessive admiration, and a lack of empathy toward others. They might exaggerate their accomplishments (real or imagined) and look down on people they perceive as inferior.

Despite this outward confidence, people diagnosed with this disorder are often very vulnerable to criticism. Even minor negative feedback can cause significant emotional turmoil and lead to defensive reactions.

Contrary to common belief, narcissistic personality disorder isn’t necessarily about loving oneself. In fact, grandiosity, need for admiration, and lack of empathy are often defense mechanisms to protect fragile self-esteem.

The estimated prevalence of Narcissistic Personality Disorder ranges from 0.5% to 5% in the general US population, while it’s more prevalent in clinical settings (about 1-15%) (Mitra & Fluyau, 2023).

Cluster C: Anxious or Fearful

Cluster C personality disorders are marked by pervasive feelings of anxiety and fearfulness. People with disorders from this cluster often find themselves preoccupied with order, control, and safety, which can significantly limit their ability to lead fulfilling lives.

1. Avoidant Personality Disorder

People with Avoidant Personality Disorder are extremely sensitive to rejection and may lead socially withdrawn lives to avoid criticism or rejection. For instance, they might decline social events or work opportunities due to fear of failure or criticism.

An intriguing aspect of this disorder is that, while individuals long for companionship, their fear of rejection may drive them into isolation.

The prevalence of Avoidant Personality Disorder is estimated to be between 1.5% and 2.5% in the general population (Lampe & Malhi, 2018).

2. Dependent Personality Disorder

The main characteristic of Dependent Personality Disorder is a comprehensive psychological reliance on others. People with this condition often think that it’s natural for others to take care of them. They’re afraid of being left alone, having to manage themselves on their own. Most of the time, people with this disorder have difficulty making everyday decisions without reassurance from others.

Even though this disorder is often associated with submission and passivity, individuals with Dependent Personality Disorder can become angry or manipulative to get their needs met. That’s why it was considered a subtype of Passive-Aggressive Personality Disorder.

Dependent Personality Disorder has the lowest prevalence among personality disorders, estimated at 0.78% in the general population (Volkert et al., 2018).

3. Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder

Unlike Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), OCPD is characterized by a preoccupation with orderliness, perfectionism, and control. People with this disorder often get so focused on details and rules that they might miss the big picture.

A great example of this would be when a person is so concerned with getting a perfect report that they miss the deadline.

While OCD is about unwanted repetitive thoughts (obsessions) and behaviors (compulsions), OCPD is about voluntary adherence to rules, order, and control.

The prevalence of OCPD is estimated to be between 2.1% and 7.9% in the general population (Hertler, 2015).

How to Treat Personality Disorders?

Treating personality disorders can be particularly challenging. A reason for this is that individuals with these disorders often don’t perceive their behaviors as problematic and don’t consider seeking treatment.

Even though experts often think that we should consider these disorders as just long-standing patterns of personality and manage them, instead of treating them, studies show that using some evidence-based therapies can still be effective.

For instance, psychotherapy is often considered the most effective type of treatment for personality disorders. Specifically, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) help individuals understand their thoughts and feelings and learn healthier ways to respond to stress and interpersonal conflicts.

Despite the type of treatment, the goal is not “curing” the disorder, but learning to manage it effectively.

If you or someone you know is struggling with a personality disorder, don’t hesitate to reach out to our licensed counselors at Health for Life Counseling, either at our offices in Grand Rapids, MI, or Ada, MI, or schedule your session online.

You don’t have to navigate these challenges alone – our team of experienced therapists is here to support you on your path toward better mental health!

Learn more about the Trauma-Informed Counseling Center of Grand Rapids

Learn more about Counseling and Therapy services at Health for Life Counseling Grand Rapids

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