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Personality Disorder: An Overview

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Written by Riddhima Poddar

Who are we but our personalities? 

We are an amalgamation of our thoughts, perceptions, feelings, actions, and traits that are uniquely ours. Our personalities are developed- often shaped by the environment we are exposed to and the genes we inherit. It is precisely why humans are so distinct from one another.

However, problems arise when our personalities- the way we respond to and relate to the world, deviate from the established norm. 

What are Personality Disorders?

Dr. Priya, Consultant Psychiatrist, Cadabams Group explains the disorder as, “Personality disorders are long-standing patterns of thinking and behaving that hinder a person’s psychological and social functioning. Often, people with the disorder do not know or are oblivious to their rigid patterns of behavior that interfere with their quality of life and cause distress to those around them. As a result, they struggle with forming healthy relationships and tend to have poor coping skills”

Since nothing is perceived to be out of the ordinary, people with it do not feel the need to work on themselves and improve or control their ways of being. 

This article will explore the different types of personality disorders.

Types and Symptoms of Personality Disorders

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) categorizes ten distinct personality disorders under three clusters. These are:  

Cluster A: “Odd and Eccentric” Personality Disorders

As showcased in movies like the ‘Conspiracy Theory’, ‘The Remains of the Day’ and ‘Taxi Driver’, and ‘

There are three types clubbed under Cluster A:

Paranoid Personality Disorder:  

People with paranoid personality disorder tend to be suspicious of others. Their actions are governed by the belief that people are out to get them, even when there is no evidence to substantiate their claim. Consequently, they feel threatened and struggle to put their faith in anyone. 

Schizoid Personality Disorder:

This disorder makes people unable to form and maintain relationships, and neither do they show a desire for the same. They are detached, distant, and indifferent. People with this disorder express little to no emotion. They seem to not care for either praise or criticism and may engage in solitary activities. 

Schizotypal Personality Disorder:

Characterized by odd and peculiar beliefs, thoughts, behavior, and appearance, people with this personality disorder are often perceived as bizarre. They tend to be superstitious and socially withdrawn.

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Cluster B: “Dramatic, Emotional or Erratic” Personality Disorders

People with Cluster B disorder struggle with impulse control and emotional regulation. They often experience intense and unstable emotions and engage in performative, irresponsible, and sometimes, even illegal behaviors.

In cinema, movies like ‘A Clockwork Orange’, ‘Girl Interrupted’ ‘Mean Girls’ and ‘To Die for’ portray Cluster B disorders convincingly.

The ones under Cluster B includes:

Antisocial Personality Disorder

People with this disorder showcase a disregard for others. They are rash, irresponsible and aggressive and may violate the rights of others to get their way. Their actions often inhibits their own safety. This disorder is characterised by an inability to abide by society’s rules and regulations. They may commit serious crimes and show no remorse for their actions. 

Borderline Personality Disorder

Also called emotionally unstable personality disorder. This is characterized by unstable moods and poor self-image, people with this disorder tend to be impulsive. They have fragile egos and go to great lengths to prevent being abandoned. People with the disorder display inappropriate outbursts of anger and often have intense and chaotic relationships. They may experience a chronic feeling of emptiness and may engage in self-harm. 

Histrionic Personality Disorder

Marked by a constant and excessive need for attention. People with histrionic personality disorder have dramatic outbursts, exaggerate and often speak with quick dramatic succession in emotions. They use their appearance to draw attention to themselves and often believe that their relationships are deeper than they actually are.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder

People with this disorder exhibit a sense of entitlement and an exaggerated sense of superiority. They often dream of success and power, however, their preoccupation with prestige is an attempt to mask their fragile self-esteem. They seem arrogant, are self-centered, and display a lack of empathy and understanding for others. They may exploit others for their own benefit and think that their own needs and feelings are more important.

Cluster C: “Anxious or Fearful” Personality Disorders

People with Cluster C personality disorders often shy from criticism and rejection. They do not always confront their fears or embark on new activities. They do not take personal risks either. 

Cluster C personality disorders are best depicted in the movies like ‘Zelig’, ‘When a Man Loves a Women’ and ‘The Aviator’. 

This cluster includes:

Avoidant Personality Disorder

People with avoidant personality disorder avoid social contact. They exhibit extreme shyness and are sensitive to criticism. In fact, their desire to be alone is fuelled by their concern over being embarrassed or judged. They fear rejection and perceive themselves to be socially inept or not good enough.

Dependent Personality Disorder

People with this disorder struggle with making everyday decisions for themselves. They need others to assume responsibility for their life. When left alone, they feel helpless and are often governed by the fear of separation. In a relationship, they focus their energy on pleasing the other person and have a need for constant reassurance. They tend to avoid confrontations and have difficulty expressing their disagreement.

Obsessive Personality Disorder

Perfectionists, people with this type of disorder have an obsessive need for control, order, and cleanliness. They are set in their ways and are inflexible in their morality and values. Their preoccupation with details makes it difficult for them to finish tasks. People with an obsessive-compulsive personality disorder may work relentlessly, often leaving no time for leisure or social activities.

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What are Personality Disorders Treatment Options?

There is no one treatment fits all approach for personality disorders. Treatment varies depending on the type of personality disorder, however, your mental health practitioner might suggest psychotherapy.

In some instances, medications like antidepressants, antipsychotics, anti-anxiety, and impulse stabilizing drugs might also be prescribed to help with extreme disabling symptoms. 

It must be noted that there is no cure for personality disorders, however with adequate treatment, one can alleviate some of the disturbing and limiting symptoms associated with the disorder. 

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