The age old adage that “nobody is perfect because everyone makes mistakes” has rang true for all of us at some point in our lives. Sometimes, we may act in ways that are detrimental or distressing to us or those around us, like lying, cheating, gossiping, gambling, and so forth.
However, what separates these negative behaviors from abnormal dysfunctions in our character is how much control we have over it, how often we do them, and why. If you are someone often seen by others as “deviant or dysfunctional” but don’t understand why, then you might have a personality disorder.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM IV) defines a personality disorder as “a way of thinking, feeling and behaving that deviates from the expectations of the culture, causes distress or problems functioning, and lasts over time.” Personality disorders are classified according to three general categories: Cluster A, Cluster B, and Cluster C.
Cluster A (odd or eccentric)
Schizotypal Personality Disorder
Schizotypal personality disorder is characterized by highly unusual and bizarre behaviors, like dressing flamboyantly or speaking in an exaggerated manner. Often outcasted by their peers, they are proud misfits who prefer to be alone and find it hard to confide in or get close to others.
They feel as if everything relates to them in some way, no matter how random (a psychological phenomenon known as “ideas of reference”). Now, this isn’t to say that they’re self-absorbed or egotistical, but rather, that they have a distorted view of the world shaped by anxiety, distrust, and hostility.
Schizoid Personality Disorder
Similar to Schizotypal, Schizoid Personality Disorder is also marked by disinterest in forming or maintaining any sort of social relationship. They might be the most withdrawn and reclusive people you will ever meet, as they are often emotionally cold, impassive, and detached from those around them.
These people have little to no desire for intimacy or affiliation. They take pleasure in very few things in life (mostly solitary activities) and neither feel nor express any strong emotions. Interestingly, both Schizoid and Schizotypal personality disorders fall on the milder end of the schizophrenia spectrum.
Paranoid Personality Disorder
Next we have Paranoid personality disorder. Judging by its name alone, you might already have a good idea of what it means. Indeed, people who are Paranoid are notoriously distrustful, suspicious, and cynical of others. They’re convinced that everyone around them wants to hurt, mistreat, or exploit them in some way.
Extremely jealous and irrational, these people have a hard time opening up to someone else and allowing themselves to be honest or vulnerable. They bear grudges and interpret nearly everything that happens as some kind of personal attack or plot against them.
Antisocial Personality Disorder
Perhaps the most famous of all the personality disorders on this list is Antisocial Personality Disorder. Commonly referred to as “psychopaths” or “sociopaths”, those who are Antisocial tend to be deceitful, unkind, and aggressive or irritable towards others. They like to exploit people and feel almost no remorse for whatever hurt or harm they may inflict.
Reckless, impulsive, and thrill-seeking, they tend to be rulebreakers or delinquents. However, they are also often charming, smooth-talking, and excellent at lying or putting on a false front, especially if they’re intelligent.
Cluster B (dramatic, erratic, or emotional)
Borderline Personality Disorder
Emotionally volatile and self-destructive, those suffering from Borderline personality disorder often struggle with feelings of emptiness and self-loathing. Because of this, most of them fear abandonment and cling to their close relationships. However, they also have difficulty controlling their emotions, which can turn them verbally or physically abusive towards their partners and friends.
Borderline personality disorder is also marked by a disturbance in identity, as most people with BPD don’t have a clear sense of self. Statistics show that they are more likely to self-harm, abuse drugs, and commit suicide at an alarmingly higher rate (Biskin, 2015).
Histrionic Personality Disorder
People who are Histrionic are overly dramatic and exaggerate their emotions, expressions, and behaviors. They want everybody to pay attention to them all the time, no matter what the cost, so they overreact and dress or speak seductively towards others.
Histrionics are uncomfortable when they are not the center of attention, and so, like to wear provocative or eye-catching clothes. They tend to be vain and self-absorbed. Their emotions can easily change with a snap of the fingers because they tend to be shallow and disingenuous.
Narcissistic Personality Disorder
Another well-known personality disorder, Narcissism is characterized by an inflated sense of self and intense need for the admiration and attention of others. Similar to Histrionic personality disorder, these people love to be in the spotlight. Narcissists, however, only desire positive attention and would never present themselves to others in a way that may be seen as weak, vulnerable, or humiliating.
Arrogant and entitled, Narcissists demand special treatment from others and are often inconsiderate and uncaring of others. To them, they are the most important people in the world, and everyone else exists simply to admire and praise them.
Cluster C (anxious or fearful)
Avoidant Personality Disorder
Intense social anxiety is the most distinguishable characteristic of Avoidant personality disorder. Those suffering from this are extremely inhibited and care too much what other people think of them. Thus, they tend to have low self-esteem and fears of rejection.
Because of this, people who are Avoidant tend to have very little friends and avoid social interactions. They withdraw and isolate themselves from others because they feel they are socially inept, inadequate, or inferior.
Dependent Personality Disorder
Dependent personality disorder, as its name implies, is marked by an unhealthy and dysfunctional need for others, born out of a fear of abandonment. Those suffering from this certain personality disorder are likely to be submissive and meek.
They depend on others to make decisions for them and tell them what to do, because they struggle with finding their own self-worth. They are clingy, needy, and sensitive to criticism. They need constant reassurance from their family and friends that they won’t leave them.
Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder
Most of the time, when someone says they’re “so OCD”, what they really mean is that they’re so OCPD. Easily mistaken for OCD, OCPD is more in line with what most people understand OCD to be: that is, an overwhelming perfectionist tendency.
People with OCPD desire extreme orderliness and control, even when it impairs them. They like to be organized and rigidly observe rules to uphold order. Highly meticulous and conscientious, these people are inflexible and tend to be workaholics or manic overachievers.
- Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5). American Psychiatric Association. (2013).
- Biskin, R.S. (2015) The Lifetime Course of Borderline Personality Disorder, Can J Psychiatry; Vol 60 (7), 303-308.