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Personality disorders | What do you need to know?

Personality is the combination of traits, emotional reactions, attitudes and behaviours that are relatively stable and that differentiate one individual from another.

Personality disorders occur when a person's personality traits are so pronounced, rigid and maladaptive that they become a source of problems at work, school and/or in relationships with others.

Personality disorders usually begin to manifest themselves in late adolescence or early adulthood. Their duration varies greatly. Some types of personality disorders tend to diminish or disappear with age, while others are likely to follow the person throughout life.

It is important to note that a personality disorder does not usually come alone. It is often accompanied by one of the following disorders:

  • Depressive disorder or bipolar or related disorder

  • An anxiety disorder

  • A somatoform disorder

  • A substance abuse disorder

  • An eating disorder

What becomes difficult when one of these disorders is diagnosed in addition to a core personality disorder is that the person becomes less receptive to treatment of the new disorder.

The 10 personality disorders

Currently, there are 10 personality disorders listed in psychiatry and about 10% of people suffer from them. These disorders can be divided into 3 groups. Each disorder has its own signals and symptoms, but some similarities exist:

Group A: Paranoid Personality Disorder, Schizoid Personality Disorder and Schizotypal Personality Disorder. These disorders are characterized by feelings of paranoia, mistrust and suspicion.

People living with paranoid personality disorder have difficulty trusting others because they are constantly suspicious and interpret the intentions of others as being malicious.

People living with schizoid personality disorder have very few emotions and place little interest or importance on social relationships. As a result, they enjoy solitary activities and often live detached and withdrawn from others.

People living with schizotypal personality disorder have behaviours, thoughts and ways of expressing themselves that are eccentric and out of the ordinary. In addition, they are often very uncomfortable in close relationships.

Group B: These are personality disorders associated with impulsivity, such as Borderline Personality Disorder, Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Histrionic Personality Disorder and Antisocial Personality Disorder. These are characterized by difficulty containing emotions, fears, desires and anger.

People who live with antisocial personality disorder disregard and disrespect the rights of others. They often break laws and social conventions. They are manipulative and show little remorse.

People living with borderline personality disorder often experience a great deal of instability in their relationships, in the way they perceive themselves and in the emotions they feel. They often act impulsively on rapidly changing emotions and often engage in self-destructive behaviours.

People living with histrionic personality disorder seek the attention of others in different ways and are overly emotional.

People with narcissistic personality disorder seek the admiration of others, have a sense of superiority and often have little empathy for others.

Group C: These are anxiety disorders, such as obsessive-compulsive personality disorder, dependent personality disorder and avoidant personality disorder. These disorders are characterized by compulsions and anxiety.

People who live with avoidant personality disorder are very sensitive to criticism from others. They constantly feel inadequate, inferior or uninteresting. They avoid relationships for fear of being disliked and ridiculed.

People living with an addictive personality disorder need to be taken care of, to make decisions and take responsibility for them. They have a submissive attitude, avoid voicing their disagreement and often agree to do things they find unpleasant so as not to lose the other person.

People living with obsessive-compulsive disorder are very concerned with order, perfectionism and control. Their need for control makes them inflexible and not very open-minded. They place more importance on following rules and doing things in a specific way than on being efficient at tasks.


Despite the fact that personality disorders are among the most difficult mental disorders to treat, some therapies have shown great promise.

For example, dialectical behavior therapy is the most widely studied psychotherapy for borderline personality disorder. This form of cognitive-behavioral therapy attributes the emotional turmoil in the person to a combination of their temperament and their disabling environmental context. CBT involves validating and accepting the person's experience, while focusing on change. Researchers hope that treatments for borderline personality disorder will lead to advances in the treatment of the other nine personality disorders.

In the meantime, psychotherapy can help a person understand how their personality disorder is related to the problems they are experiencing. It can also help him or her learn new and better ways of interacting and overcoming problems. Change usually happens gradually.

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