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Personality Disorders

Personality Disorders


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.

What is going on in the body?

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.


What are the causes and risks of the condition?

The exact cause of personality disorders is unknown. Some theories include:
  • biological causes, such as genetic defects, or head injury
  • social causes, or learned responses
  • psychological causes, such as poor parent-child relationships


What can be done to prevent the condition?

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.


How is the condition diagnosed?

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.

Long Term Effects

What are the long-term effects of the condition?

People with these disorders tend to have life-long problems in relationships and at work.

Other Risks

What are the risks to others?

Since these disorders are not contagious, there are no risks to others.


What are the treatments for the condition?

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.

Side Effects

What are the side effects of the treatments?

Each type of medication has a different set of side effects.

After Treatment

What happens after treatment for the condition?

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.


How is the condition monitored?

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="" linkTitle=""][/hyperLink]

Merck Manual of Medical Information: Home Edition, R Berkow, 1997

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