A personality disorder is a chronic mental condition characterized by behaviors that prevent the person who has the disorder from functioning well in society. Affected people usually do not learn from mistakes and do not adapt well to changes in their lives. These disorders usually start before or during the teenage years.
Most people can live fairly normal lives with mild disorders. But when stress increases, symptoms often increase and begin to interfere with the person's ability to function.
Each personality disorder has different symptoms. People with these disorders have long-standing troubles in their relationships and jobs. The many different personality disorders include: paranoid -- affected people think others are out to get themschizoid -- affected people are "loners" and prefer to be aloneschizotypal -- affected people have very strange thoughts and beliefshistrionic -- affected people are very emotional and dramaticnarcissistic -- affected people are very self-centered and think they are better than othersantisocial -- affected people lack a conscience, take advantage of others, and refuse to obey the laws of societyborderline -- affected people have unstable relationships, lots of anger, and a poor self-imageavoidant -- affected people feel inferior to others and fear rejectiondependent -- affected people rely too much on others, often staying in abusive relationships because they fear being aloneobsessive-compulsive -- affected people are more concerned with the rules than the goal of an activitypassive-aggressive -- affected people are aggressive in a passive way, such as being late on purpose
The exact cause of personality disorders is unknown. Some theories include: biological causes, such as genetic defects, or head injurysocial causes, or learned responsespsychological causes, such as poor parent-child relationships
There are no known ways to prevent these disorders. It is known that having a solid, loving home life is important for healthy personality development.
The diagnosis is made on the basis of a person's symptoms and behaviors. The specific disorder is diagnosed when the person's symptoms match the traits for that disorder.
People with these disorders tend to have life-long problems in relationships and at work.
Since these disorders are not contagious, there are no risks to others.
Personality disorders are difficult to treat. Treatments that focus on increasing social and coping skills can be helpful. Medications may be used to reduce anxiety and depression but do not cure the disorder. Family and group psychotherapy may also be helpful if the person will agree to attend.
Each type of medication has a different set of side effects.
People with these disorders often do not follow the treatment plan. No cure is available, so treatment does not stop unless the affected person wants it to.
These disorders are usually permanent and affected people need to be monitored for life, although treatment can often improve symptoms to a manageable level.
Professional Guide to Diseases, 6th Ed., Springhouse Publishers, 1998
Personality Disorders, Mental Health Net, 2000 [hyperLink url="http://personalitydisorders.mentalhelp.net/" linkTitle="personalitydisorders.mentalhelp.net"]personalitydisorders.mentalhelp.net[/hyperLink]
Merck Manual of Medical Information: Home Edition, R Berkow, 1997