A personality disorder is a set of deeply ingrained thoughts and behaviors that seriously interfere with a person’s ability to work, form relationships, and enjoy life. These behaviors are usually present in childhood or adolescence, and must continue into adulthood before a diagnosis can be made.
These disorders differ from most other psychological disorders because the symptoms begin at a young age and exist consistently throughout a person’s life (many other disorders will occur in “episodes” that may come and go, or even disappear over time). In addition, these disorders are often more difficult to successfully treat than other conditions.
The American Psychological Association currently recognizes a total of 10 of these disorders. They are grouped into three “clusters” based on characteristics that certain conditions share. These clusters are:
Cluster A (Odd or eccentric) – People who suffer from these disorders are often highly unusual in their appearances, actions, and / or speech patterns. The paranoid, schizoid, and schizotypal disorders are included in this cluster.
Cluster B (Dramatic or erratic) – People with these disorders are often unusually harsh or dramatic in their speech and / or behaviors. This cluster includes the narcissistic, histrionic, borderline, and antisocial disorders.
Cluster C (Anxious) – The people n this cluster often experience intense anxiety that is not proportionate to the events that provoke it. This cluster includes the dependent, avoidant, and obsessive-compulsive disorders.
Unfortunately, people with one of these disorders rarely seek treatment on their own, because they are sometimes unwilling or unable to acknowledge that they have a condition. Even with treatment, patients are often highly resistant to changing their thought patterns or behaviors.
This, in addition to the fact that such disorders are poorly understood by doctors, means that people with these disorders do not always recover from them, although many do learn to control their symptoms and behaviors. Talk therapy, behavioral therapy, and medications can all help people manage their disorders.