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What are the different types and symptoms of personality disorders?

Personality disorders are complex mental health conditions that can range from being mild and relatively manageable, to having a severe and enduring impact on an individual’s ability to function. They can have a detrimental effect on multiple areas of a person’s life, including how you behave, think, and feel on a daily basis, how you understand and relate to other people, as well as your general health and wellbeing. Personality disorders can also have a profound impact on the lives of people that you’re close to.

Personality disorders usually become apparent during adolescence and an individual’s teenage years (often conceptualised at this stage as ‘emerging personality disorders’), before continuing into adulthood.

There are 10 recognised types of personality disorder, and it is likely that the symptoms that you experience will vary depending on the specific type that you are struggling with, as well as varying from person to person. You may find that you fit the criteria for several different types of personality disorder, while people with completely different experiences and personalities may be diagnosed with the same personality disorder.

Below, you can read about all 10 personality disorder types that we can treat at Priory, as well as the typical symptoms that are associated with each.

Emotionally unstable personality disorder (EUPD)

Emotionally unstable personality disorder (EUPD) which is also known as ‘borderline personality disorder' (BPD), is the most common type of personality disorder. This condition typically causes individuals to experience intense and fluctuating emotions, which can last anywhere from a few hours to several days at a time. These emotions can range from extreme happiness, euphoria and self-belief, to crushing feelings of sadness and worthlessness later the same day. In addition, it is not uncommon for individuals with EUPD to also experience suicidal thoughts and engage in self-harming behaviours. The rapid and extreme fluctuations in mood that are associated with EUPD can often make it difficult for sufferers to maintain stable personal relationships.

Symptoms of EUPD include:

  • Impulsivity
  • Mood swings
  • An overwhelming fear of abandonment
  • Extreme anxiety and irritability
  • Anger
  • Paranoia and being suspicious of other people
  • Feeling empty, hopeless and worthless
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Self-harm
  • Having a pattern of unstable or shallow relationships
  • Rapidly changing your opinions of other people
  • Dissociation – feeling as though you have lost touch with reality

Avoidant personality disorder

Avoidant personality disorder, which is also known as ‘anxious personality disorder’, is characterised by individuals trying to avoid situations where they have to spend time with other people. You may find that you constantly worry about being rejected by other people in social settings, and may be overly sensitive to criticism or the disapproval of others. Avoidant personality disorder may also make you feel as though you are inferior to others, which can prevent you from forming and maintaining relationships with other people, through fear of being ridiculed or rejected.     

Symptoms of avoidant personality disorder include:          

  • Avoiding social situations or contact with others
  • Having an obsession and overwhelming fear of being criticised, rejected or ridiculed
  • Feelings of inferiority, or as though no-one will want to talk to you, meaning that you are often quiet, shy and inhibited in social situations
  • Worrying that you may cry, blush or do something wrong in social situations
  • Unwilling to try new things for fear of being embarrassed in front of other people
  • Often has no close friends

Dependent personality disorder

This type of personality disorder causes sufferers to become dependent on other people to make decisions, and will often let others take responsibility for lots of different aspects of their lives. You may appear to be submissive or passive and have extremely low confidence and self-worth. In addition, you will often go along with other people so you don’t lose their support, even if you don’t actually agree with their opinions or actions.

Symptoms of dependent personality disorder include:

  • ‘Clingy’ behaviour
  • An overwhelming fear of being abandoned
  • Wanting to be ‘looked after’ by other people
  • Being unable to make day-to-day decisions on your own
  • Wanting other people to take responsibility for all areas of your life
  • Feeling helpless when you’re on your own
  • Having a need to please others and gain their approval
  • Finding it difficult to do things on your own

Paranoid personality disorder

Paranoid personality disorder is characterised by overwhelming feelings of paranoia which may result in you finding it difficult to trust other people, and believing that others are ‘out to get you’ or will try to take advantage of you. In addition, this type of personality disorder may cause you to be fearful in everyday situations, and be extremely wary of other people in case they become hostile.

Symptoms of paranoid personality disorder include:

  • Extreme paranoia
  • Being suspicious of other people and believing that they are harming you or lying to you
  • Doubting the loyalty of people who are close to you
  • Being unable to confide in other people because you don’t trust them
  • Holding grudges
  • Overthinking and jumping to conclusions about the actions, words and intentions of others
  • Being highly sensitive to criticism
  • Being defensive and argumentative
  • Anger
  • Quick, ‘knee-jerk’ reactions to perceived problems
  • Finding it hard to relax

Schizoid personality disorder

Schizoid personality disorder causes individuals to feel as though other people will only cause them problems, and that close relationships with others will get in the way of their day-to-day life. These beliefs therefore mean that you tend to be uninterested in forming and maintaining relationships, even with close family members, and have no desire to be intimate with others or form emotional connections. This, in turn, can mean that people with schizoid personality disorder are aloof, detached and isolated, and find it difficult to experience pleasure and enjoyment from their everyday life.

Symptoms of schizoid personality disorder include:

  • Avoiding getting to know people and developing new relationships
  • Preferring to spend time alone
  • Experiencing no pleasure from daily activities
  • Not being interested in sexual activity
  • Often has no-one to talk to other than immediate family members
  • Being indifferent to other people’s opinions of you
  • Lacking motivation
  • Finding it difficult to express emotions or respond appropriately to different situations

Schizotypal personality disorder

Schizotypal personality disorder is often associated with eccentric behaviour, such as using words, phrases and actions that don’t seem to be appropriate to the situation, and are perceived as being unusual by other people. This type of personality disorder can also cause you to experience delusional thoughts and beliefs, such as believing that you are famous or have superpowers, which can lead to grandiose thinking, and feeling tense when other people don’t share these ideas. Because of the eccentric thoughts and behaviours that are associated with schizotypal personality disorder, individuals with this condition often find it difficult to find and maintain close relationships.

Symptoms of schizotypal personality disorder include:

  • Feeling uncomfortable in close relationships
  • Distorted and delusional thoughts that may result in odd behaviour
  • Paranoia and suspicion
  • Often has no-one to talk to other than immediate family members
  • Behaving in eccentric ways and holding strange attitudes towards things
  • Experiencing excessive anxiety around other people
  • Seems to be emotionally ‘flat’ or exhibits inappropriate emotional responses

Antisocial personality disorder (ASPD)

People with antisocial personality disorder (ASPD) typically exhibit dangerous and sometimes illegal behaviours (which may result in a criminal record), and engage in activities and actions that other people find difficult to accept. In addition, you may feel indifferent after mistreating other people, and find it difficult to understand why they are upset.

Symptoms of ASPD include:

  • An inability to follow rules or even obey the law
  • Not learning from your mistakes
  • Lying to others and being deceitful
  • Aggression and irritability
  • Impulsivity
  • Repeatedly disregarding, manipulating and violating the rights of other people
  • Being indifferent after you have mistreated, hurt or abused another person, or trying to justify your actions
  • Finding it difficult to maintain close personal relationships
  • Blaming others for any problems in your life
  • Experiencing uncontrollable angry outbursts

Impulsive personality disorder

Impulsive personality disorder is a subtype of BPD. Individuals with this subtype of personality disorder typically enjoy being the centre of attention and may appear to be charismatic to other people. You may enjoy engaging in risky and adventurous behaviours, to the point that these become dangerous. Again, the erratic and potentially harmful behaviours that are associated with impulsive personality disorder can make it difficult to retain stable relationships.

Symptoms of impulsive personality disorder include:

  • Engaging in reckless or dangerous behaviours, such as taking drugs, committing crimes, or having unsafe sex, especially when you are upset
  • Trying to impress others with your risky behaviours
  • Having an impulse to hurt yourself

Histrionic personality disorder

In a similar way to impulsive personality disorder, individuals with histrionic personality disorder typically enjoy being the centre of attention in all situations, and feel uncomfortable if they don’t have the constant attention of others. You may feel compelled to entertain others, and are easily influenced by other people and their opinions of you.

Symptoms of histrionic personality disorder include:

  • Feeling uncomfortable if you’re not the centre of attention
  • Mood swings and shallow emotions
  • Expressing yourself in theatrical, exaggerated or overly dramatic ways
  • Using your physical appearance to draw attention to yourself
  • Being easily influenced by other people
  • Sexually inappropriate, seductive or provocative behaviour
  • Believing that your friendships or close personal relationships are more intimate than they actually are

Narcissistic personality disorder

This type of personality disorder often causes you to put your needs above the needs of others, making you appear to be selfish to other people. You may also hold beliefs that there are legitimate reasons why you are different or better than other people. However, you may also find that your self-esteem and self-worth is dependent on other people’s opinions of you, and their recognition of your values and attributes.

Symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder include:

  • Inflated sense of self-importance and believing that you are ‘special’
  • Having a sense of entitlement and believing that you deserve favourable treatment
  • Grandiose thinking, including fantasies about success, wealth, fame or beauty
  • Needing constant praise and admiration
  • Being unable to empathise with the feelings and views of others
  • Taking advantage of, or exploiting other people, without feeling guilty about this
  • Frequently belittling or bullying other people to make yourself look better

Obsessive compulsive personality disorder (OCPD)

Obsessive compulsive personality disorder (OCPD), causes sufferers to want to be in complete control of their surroundings, as well as wanting to keep everything in order. OCPD may also result in you holding extremely high expectations of yourself and other people, particularly in ability and performance-related settings such as work. If something doesn’t go your way, you might believe that awful things are going to happen, and you may obsess over and dwell on the mistakes of yourself and others.

Symptoms of OCPD include:

  • Being obsessed with order, control, rules, regulations, morals and ethical codes
  • Having a preoccupation with being ‘perfect’
  • Spending an excessive amount of time working and trying to be productive
  • Neglecting leisure time and family/friends
  • Not wanting other people to help you at work, for fear that they won’t do things right
  • Having an extreme attention to detail, to the extent that this actually makes you inefficient
  • A rigid style of thinking and an inability to be flexible
  • Having an inflexible opinion on the ways that things should be done
  • Stubbornness and anger
  • Being fixated on ‘to-do’ lists
  • Being frugal with money
  • Having an obsession with punctuality
  • Hoarding useless items, or items that you no longer need
  • Having overly stiff and formal mannerisms

This page was clinically reviewed by Dr Michael Phelan (MBBS, BSc, FRCPsych) in November 2018, and is scheduled to be reviewed again in November 2020. To view all Priory personality disorder specialists, please click here.

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