Understanding Personality Disorders

personality disorders

Personality disorders cause people to think, feel, and act differently from the average person. There are many types of personality disorders, all of which are often misunderstood and stigmatised.

What Are Personality Disorders?

The definition of personality is the characteristics and qualities that make up a person’s distinctive character. Everyone has a unique personality, and their personality can influence how they see the world.

Personality disorders affect how people see themselves and can cause severe hindrances in everyday life. Different personality disorders have very different symptoms, but generally, personality disorders cause people intense distress and affect their relationships, behaviour and thoughts.

Types of Personality Disorders

There are ten types of personality disorders which are divided into three categories. Suspicious, or cluster A, personality disorders include:

  • Paranoid personality disorder – characterised by an intense distrust of other people, having difficulty relaxing, and seeing threats and danger in innocent remarks and looks from other people.
  • Schizoid personality disorder – symptoms of schizoid personality disorder include having little interest in intimacy, choosing to live life alone and having difficulty relating to other people.
  • Schizotypal personality disorder – this personality disorder is characterised by distorted thoughts and perceptions, difficulties in relationships, and thinking or expressing things that other people find strange.

Schizoid personality disorder and schizotypal personality disorder share similar symptoms to schizophrenia but do not include psychosis as schizophrenia does.

Emotional and impulsive, or cluster B, personality disorders include:

  • Antisocial personality disorder (ASPD) – people with ASPD may disregard social norms and struggle to feel remorse for other people. They may also struggle with impulse control and put themselves in risky situations without thinking of the consequences.
  • Borderline personality disorder (BPD) – also known as emotionally unstable personality disorder (EUPD) – is defined by an intense fear of abandonment, intense emotions that can change rapidly, and chronic feelings of emptiness.
  • Histrionic personality disorder – symptoms of histrionic personality disorder include a desire to be the centre of attention constantly, seeking approval from others, and making rash decisions.
  • Narcissistic personality disorder – those with a narcissistic personality disorder may believe that they are special or more deserving than others, have shaky self-esteem, and put their needs above everyone else.

These personality disorders are characterised by erratic behaviour and intense emotions.

Anxious, or cluster C, personality disorders include:

  • Avoidant personality disorder – many people with this personality disorder avoid events in which they would have to be seen by others, can be incredibly sensitive to criticism, and feel consistently lonely and isolated.
  • Dependent personality disorder – those with dependent personality disorder can allow other people to take responsibility for their lives and often lack the confidence to do things alone. They may be described as needy and see other people as much more confident.
  • Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD) – OCPD is similar to obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) but varies in that OCD only describes a behaviour, not a personality. The two conditions share symptoms such as perfectionism, control, and difficulty being flexible in decisions.

Each personality disorder has a unique set of diagnostic criteria, but it is possible to have more than one personality disorder. This may be called mixed personality disorder. Another type of personality disorder – personality disorder not otherwise specified (PD-NOS) – may be diagnosed if an individual does not meet the full criteria for a specific personality disorder.

The diagnosis of a personality disorder can be a controversial thing. Some people welcome the label, but others find the term stigmatising and judgemental. The important thing to remember for people who may have a personality disorder is that you are not alone – other people understand how you are feeling, and you deserve to be treated fairly.

Causes of Personality Disorders

The causes of personality disorders are varied, and there is no clear reason why some people develop them, and others do not. A mix of factors may contribute to the development of personality disorders, including:

  • Genetics – personality is partially influenced by genes. Some researchers believe that genetics can influence the development of personality disorders.
  • Childhood trauma – early life experiences play key roles in developing people’s personalities. Those who have experienced traumatic events as children, such as neglect, abuse, and bereavement, are more likely to develop a personality disorder as they grow up.
  • Environmental factors – the environment in which people grew up can influence their personalities. People who grew up in an unstable home, did not receive emotional support from their caregivers, or grew up in poverty are at a higher risk of developing personality disorders.

A majority of people with personality disorders have a history of trauma. One study found that people with borderline personality disorder had experienced high rates of childhood sexual trauma.[1] Not everyone who has experienced trauma will develop a personality disorder, but it significantly increases the chances.

Treatment and Recovery

For many people with personality disorders, the symptoms fade over time; however, for this to be possible, treatment is required.

There is no generic treatment for personality disorders. Each one requires a different approach, and what works for one person may not work for another. For example, art therapy provides a creative outlet for people to explore their emotions without using words. It has also proven beneficial for those with personality disorders, with one study finding that it helped improve their emotional and social functioning.[2]

Another holistic treatment for personality disorders is meditation and mindfulness. Research has found that mindfulness reduces emotional reactivity and impulsivity in BPD. Other treatments include somatic experiencing, psychoeducation, and family therapy.


Personality disorders are conditions that are often misunderstood. People with these conditions can find it intensely difficult to relate to the world around them and they struggle with problems in their life and relationships.

People with personality disorders often have a history of trauma. Although not everyone with trauma will develop a personality disorder, the rates are significantly higher, especially among those who experienced childhood trauma.

If you have a client or know of someone struggling with trauma or a personality disorder, reach out to us at Khiron Clinics. We believe that we can improve therapeutic outcomes and avoid misdiagnosis by providing an effective residential program and outpatient therapies addressing underlying psychological trauma. Allow us to help you find the path to realistic, long-lasting recovery. For more information, call us today. UK: 020 3811 2575 (24 hours). USA: (866) 801 6184 (24 hours).


[1] “What Causes Personality Disorders?”. Https://Www.Apa.Org, 2022, https://www.apa.org/topics/personality-disorders/causes.

[2] Haeyen, Suzanne et al. “Benefits Of Art Therapy In People Diagnosed With Personality Disorders: A Quantitative Survey”. Frontiers In Psychology, vol 11, 2020. Frontiers Media SA, https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.00686. Accessed 11 May 2022.