Personality Disorders

Written by L.N. Cordero, MA
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“Personality disorder” is a term used by professionals in the mental health field to describe a long-standing group of symptoms arising from maladaptive and inflexible personality traits. Personality traits are persistent methods of recognizing, understanding and interacting with the environment and oneself which are pervasive in varied social and personal contexts.

When these long-standing personality traits deviate substantially from the expectations of an individual’s culture, result in marked distress or impairment in significant areas of functioning and impact the individual’s thinking, emotions, interpersonal relationships and self-control, a personality disorder may be diagnosed. Other factors to consider in diagnosis include whether these patterns of behavior are better accounted for by another mental disorder or are the result of a general medical condition.

Personality Disorders in Children

Because maladaptive personality traits must be long-standing and pervasive in order for a personality disorder to be diagnosed, personality disorders are generally not diagnosed in individuals under the age of 18 years. Children and adolescents who exhibit symptoms of personality disorders may be diagnosed with “traits” of the personality disorder their behavior resembles. For example, a young teenager who is diagnosed with Major Depression and also engages in self-injurious behavior and binge eating, two possible symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder, may be diagnosed with “Borderline Personality Traits,” rather than the full-blown disorder. Many psychologists believe that personality is not solidified until a person becomes an adult. Therefore, most will not diagnose personality disorders in children or adolescents.

Types of Personality Disorders

The DSM-IVR separates personality disorders into three clusters, A, B and C, based on characteristic similarities. Cluster A consists of Schizoid, Paranoid, and Schizotypal Personality Disorders. These disorders all tend to manifest in odd or eccentric behavior. Narcissistic, Borderline, Histrionic and Antisocial Personality Disorders make up Cluster B. These disorders are characterized by caprice, excessive or changeable emotion and interpersonal drama. Cluster C is comprised of Dependent, Obsessive-Compulsive and Avoidant Personality Disorders. Fear and anxiety are the mark of Cluster C disorders.

Personality Disorders and Age

Regardless of the type, the symptoms and features of most personality disorders become evident in adolescence or early adulthood. Because personality disorders must be persistent, pervasive and stable over time, it is unlikely that an individual would develop a personality disorder later in life. Some personality disorders, such as Borderline and Antisocial, may become less evident or abate with age. This does not seem to be the case with others, such as Obsessive-Compulsive and Schizotypal Personality Disorders. In any circumstance, when a personality disorder is suspected, individuals should consult a healthcare professional for proper diagnosis and care.


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Great article. I had a

Great article. I had a friend with Borderline Personality Disorder. It was a difficult road for her (and us as her friends), but she was able to get into a Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) program and that (along with developing her spirituality) really seemed to help. If you've got a friend or a family member suffering from BPD, you might have them check out DBT as well. There is hope.