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What are personality disorders?

Personality is the combination of qualities and attributes that form a person’s distinctive character. The way an individual behaves, thinks, and feels makes them different from other people. Personality is also shaped by a person’s background, experiences, environment, and inherited traits.
Personality disorders are long-term patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving that are maladaptive and inflexible. These patterns markedly differ from social norms and cause serious problems at work and in relationships, often manifesting in at least two of the following ways:

• Cognition and thinking, including distortions in our views of ourselves or others
• Emotional expression
• Interpersonal functioning, especially how we relate to others
• Impulse control and how we manage feelings

Normal traits that have become extreme often characterize personality problems.
For example, being conscientious is generally a desired work attribute. Someone whose work devotion, however, that comes at the expense of all else can experience hardship. While extra work projects and commitments often do arise for people, the difference is the ability to adapt flexibly. An overly conscientious person may be unable or unwilling to attend flexibly to other areas of her or his life, such as friendships and leisure. These areas suffer.
Extreme conscientiousness is one way to describe Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD), an adaptation that often feels like the way things should be for the person with such traits. It often takes a crisis, such as a spouse leaving, a failure at work, or other hardship for someone to recognize the limits of an adaptation. After all, for the person afflicted with Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder, ‘symptoms’ such as obsessive preoccupation with minor details or work output don’t seem like symptoms at all. They feel normal. These traits define who they are.
Note: The main differences between people with OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) and OCPD is that people with OCD are bothered by their symptoms. They do not view their symptoms, such as intrusive thoughts about germs or compulsive behaviors like hand washing, as desirable. They are uncomfortable with the way they are forced to live because of OCD.
The Ten Personality Disorders and Their Clusters
There are 10 specific types of personality disorders. People can have more than one personality disorder or traits of differing personality disorders. For example, Borderline Personality Disorder and Narcissistic Personality Disorder can be diagnosed together. There are three clusters of personality disorders.
Personality Disorder Clusters

Cluster A
The three personality disorders in this cluster share distorted thinking, social awkwardness and social withdrawal as symptoms.
• Paranoid PD
• Schizoid PD
• Schizotypal PD

Cluster B
The four personality disorders in this cluster share difficulties with impulse control and emotional regulation.
• Antisocial PD
• Borderline PD
• Histrionic PD
• Narcissistic PD

Cluster C

The three personality disorders in this cluster share a high level of fear and anxiety. People in this cluster need lots of reassurance from other people.
• Avoidant PD
• Dependent PD
• Obsessive Compulsive PD

Cluster A
Paranoid PD is characterized by:
• generalized mistrust and suspicion of others
• paranoia
• rarely confide in others
• misinterpret others’ behavior as malicious
• looking for ‘clues’ that validate their fears

Schizoid PD is characterized by:
• indifference to social relationships and relationship avoidance
• indifferent to praise
• limited range of emotional expression and emotionally cold and detached
• lack of close friends and no desire for close relationships
Schizotypal PD is characterized by:
• disturbed thoughts and behavior
• unusual or odd beliefs (aliens, UFOs, etc.) and fears
• odd behavior and/or speech
• difficulty making/keeping friendships
• suspiciousness and/or paranoia

Cluster B
Antisocial PD is characterized by:
• antisocial behavior
• externalization and minimization of responsibility
• deceitfulness
• impulsive and risk-taking behavior
• hostility and aggression
• lack of restraint
• general discontent

Borderline PD is characterized by:
• heightened reactivity and sensitivity
• emotional dysregulation and volatility, including emotional reactions that go to extremes
• crisis prone
• self-destructive behavior
• difficulty managing slights
• feelings of worthlessness and insecurity
• impulsivity
• impaired social relationships and pattern of unstable intense relationships
• mood swings
• intense fear of abandonment

Histrionic PD is characterized by:
• needs to be the center of attention
• intense and dramatic
• thinks relationships are closer than they are
• easily influenced by others
• emotions change rapidly
• deeply felt insecurity

Narcissistic PD is characterized by:
• preoccupied with own interests disregard for others’ feelings
• unable to empathize
• bolster themselves through praise and admiration of others
• excessive need for admiration
• inability to handle any criticism
• a sense of entitlement

Cluster C
Avoidant PD is characterized by:

• extremely shy
• self-isolation
• fear of ridicule, criticism, and rejection
• overly concerned with looking foolish
• low threshold for criticism
• low self-esteem

Dependent PD is characterized by:

• no trust in their own abilities and lack of self-confidence
• emotionally dependent on other people
• spend great effort trying to please others
• difficulty being alone
• needy and clinging behavior
• fear of separation and/or abandonment
• inability to make decisions without help from others
• devastated when relationships end
• oversensitivity to criticism
• inability to start projects or tasks
• tolerate mistreatment and abuse in order to stay in a relationship

Obsessive-compulsive PD is characterized by:


(AFRIMEB) is a public benefit organization, based in Kenya dedicated to research in mental and neurological health and, substance use to generate evidence for policy and best practice in the provision of affordable, appropriate, available and accessible mental health services.

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Africa Institute of Mental and Brain Health (AFRIMEB). Matumbato Rd, Nairobi, Kenya. P.O Box 48423-00100

+(254) 202651360