Personality disorders are conditions in which an individual differs significantly from an average person, in terms of how they think, perceive, feel or relate to others.
Changes in how a person feels and distorted beliefs about other people can lead to odd behaviour, which can be distressing and may upset others.
Personality disorders typically emerge in adolescence and continue into adulthood. They may be mild, moderate or severe, and people may have periods of ‘remission’ where they function well.
Personality disorders may be associated with genetic and family factors. Experiences of distress or fear during childhood, such as neglect or abuse, are common.
In England, it is estimated around one in every 20 people has a personality disorder. However, many people have only mild conditions so only need help at times of stress (such as bereavement). Other people with more severe problems may need specialist help for longer periods.Several different types of personality disorder are recognised. They can be broadly grouped into one of three clusters – A, B or C – which are summarised below.
Cluster A personality disorders
A person with a cluster A personality disorder tends to have difficulty relating to others and usually shows patterns of behaviour most people would regard as odd and eccentric. Others may describe them as living in a fantasy world of their own. An example is paranoid personality disorder, where the person is extremely distrustful and suspicious.
Cluster B personality disorders
A person with a cluster B personality disorder struggles to regulate their feelings and often swings between positive and negative views of others. This can lead to patterns of behaviour others describe as dramatic, unpredictable and disturbing.
An example is Borderline Personality Disorder, where the person is emotionally unstable, has impulses to self-harm, and intense and unstable relationships with others.
Cluster C personality disorders
A person with a cluster C personality disorder struggles with persistent and overwhelming feelings of anxiety and fear. They may show patterns of behaviour most people would regard as antisocial and withdrawn.
An example is avoidant personality disorder, where the person appears painfully shy, socially inhibited, feels inadequate and is extremely sensitive to rejection. The person may want to be close to others, but lacks confidence to form a close relationship.