How do I know if Someone has a personality disorder?

There is a new and common curiosity about personality disorders. Many are curious to know if a parent, ex-partner, current partner, supervisor, or person they know has a personality disorder. This blog is meant to provide you with a breakdown of the personality disorders in The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Identifying whether someone you know has a personality disorder can be complex, and it’s important to approach the situation with sensitivity and care. Only a qualified mental health professional can provide an accurate diagnosis. However, here are some signs that might indicate the presence of a personality disorder:

  • Consistent and Enduring Patterns
    Personality disorders involve consistent and enduring patterns of behavior, thoughts, and emotions that deviate from societal norms and cause distress or impairment. These patterns typically become evident in adolescence or early adulthood.

  • Difficulty in Relationships
    People with personality disorders often struggle with forming and maintaining healthy relationships. They may have intense conflicts, difficulty trusting others, or a tendency to push people away.

  • Emotional Instability
    Mood swings, intense emotional reactions, and difficulties regulating emotions are common features of many personality disorders. This can manifest as rapid shifts between anger, sadness, and anxiety.

  • Impulsivity and Risky Behavior: Some personality disorders are characterized by impulsive and risky behaviors, such as substance abuse, reckless driving, self-harm, or engaging in unsafe sexual practices.

  • Distorted Self-Image
    People with personality disorders may have a distorted self-image, low self-esteem, and a lack of confidence. They might seek validation or approval from others in excessive ways.
  • Difficulty Managing Stress
    Handling stress and adversity can be challenging for individuals with personality disorders. They might react in ways that seem exaggerated or inappropriate for the situation.

  • Isolation or Social Withdrawal
    Some personality disorders can lead to isolation and social withdrawal. The person might avoid social situations due to fear of rejection or criticism.

  • Unusual Beliefs or Thoughts
    Certain personality disorders involve unusual beliefs, suspiciousness, or odd thought patterns that don’t align with reality.

  • Lack of Insight
    Many individuals with personality disorders might not recognize their own behavior as problematic. They may not see the need for change or treatment.

  • Impact on Functioning
    Personality disorders can significantly impair various areas of life, including work, school, relationships, and overall well-being.

Fifth Edition (DSM-5). The DSM-5 outlines the following personality disorders:

  • Paranoid Personality Disorder:
    Characterized by a pervasive distrust and suspiciousness of others’ motives. Individuals with this disorder are often overly sensitive to perceived slights or criticism.

  • Schizoid Personality Disorder:
    Marked by a detachment from social relationships and limited emotional expression. People with schizoid personality disorder tend to prefer solitary activities and have difficulty forming close relationships.

  • Schizotypal Personality Disorder:
    Involves eccentric behavior, unusual beliefs, and odd thought patterns. Individuals with this disorder may experience discomfort in social situations and have difficulty maintaining close relationships.

  • Antisocial Personality Disorder:
    Defined by a disregard for the rights of others and a lack of empathy. People with this disorder often engage in impulsive, irresponsible, and manipulative behavior, often leading to legal issues.

  • Borderline Personality Disorder:
    Characterized by unstable relationships, self-image, and emotions. Individuals with borderline personality disorder may have intense mood swings, engage in impulsive behaviors, and fear abandonment.

  • Histrionic Personality Disorder:
    Involves excessive attention-seeking behaviors and a tendency to be emotionally dramatic. People with histrionic personality disorder may have shallow relationships and crave constant validation and approval.

  • Narcissistic Personality Disorder:
    Characterized by an inflated sense of self-importance, a need for excessive admiration, and a lack of empathy. Individuals with narcissistic personality disorder often seek constant attention and validation.

  • Avoidant Personality Disorder:
    Marked by social inhibition, low self-esteem, and extreme sensitivity to negative evaluation. People with avoidant personality disorder desire social connections but avoid them due to fear of rejection.

  • Dependent Personality Disorder:
    Involves a pervasive need to be taken care of, leading to submissive and clinging behavior. Individuals with dependent personality disorder may have difficulty making decisions and seek excessive reassurance from others.

  • Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder:
    Characterized by a preoccupation with orderliness, perfectionism, and control. People with obsessive-compulsive personality disorder may be inflexible, rigid, and overly focused on rules and details.

Here are the diagnostic criteria for some of these personality disorders as outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5):

1. Paranoid Personality Disorder:
2. Schizoid Personality Disorder:
3. Schizotypal Personality Disorder:
4. Antisocial Personality Disorder:

Pervasive pattern of disregard for and violation of the rights of others since age 15, as indicated by three (or more) of the following:

5. Borderline Personality Disorder:

It’s important to remember that these signs can overlap with other mental health conditions, and making a diagnosis requires a comprehensive assessment by a qualified mental health professional.  Please also note that in many of these criterias the word pervasive and patterns are common which means the person repeats these behaviors and the behaviors are causing conflict in their family, social, and work life. 

Having one or two of these symptoms does not necessarily mean the person has a personality disorder. Also, many other psychological disorders can mimic some of these patterns of behaviors. If you suspect someone you know might be struggling with their mental health, it’s advisable to encourage them to seek professional help. Engage in open and empathetic conversations, express your concern, and offer support without judgment. Ultimately, a mental health professional can provide the necessary evaluation and guidance. 

Dr. Yaro Garcia

Hello, I am Dr. Garcia, please call me Yaro. My degrees are in clinical psychology and I am a licensed mental health counselor. My approach is caring, warm, safe, non-judgmental, and straight forward. It is a difficult decision to seek therapy, I take time to build a trusting therapeutic relationship with you…