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Symptoms and Causes of Personality Disorders

Discover the types, causes, and symptoms of personality disorder and where to seek treatment in this comprehensive article.


Personality is how people think, feel, and behave, distinguishing them from others. An individual’s personality tends to remain consistent throughout time. Experiences, environment (e.g., surroundings, life events), and genetic qualities all have an impact on personality.
Personality disorders can greatly alter and change a person’s personality in ways that do not align with standard, recognizable behaviors.
Personality Disorders

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What Is a Personality Disorder?

It is a style of thinking, feeling, and acting that deviates from cultural standards, causes discomfort, interferes with functioning, and persists over time. Personality disorders are classified into ten separate disorders and can be chronic if not treated. 

They can have an impact on at least two of these areas:

  • How you see and think of yourself and others
  • How you respond to others
  • How you relate with others
  • How you control your behavior

Multiple Personality Disorder

Now called dissociative identity disorder (DID), multiple personality disorder is characterized by having two or more distinct identities. Both personalities cannot control the mind and body at once. Each identity has its own history, characteristics, preferences, and dislikes. DID can cause hallucinations and memory gaps.
Dissociative disorders are rare, occurring in 1% to 5% of the population worldwide, and severe cases occurring in 1% to 1.5% of the population.1

Types of Personality Disorders

There are ten types of personality disorders grouped into three categories, known as clusters, based on overall characteristics and symptoms. Many who suffer from one disorder also show symptoms of at least one other type. A condition does not have to display all of the mentioned signs and symptoms before determining a diagnosis.
Various types of personality disorders will be detailed below.

Cluster A Personality Disorders

These disorders are characterized by eccentric and unconventional behaviors or conduct. The three cluster A personality disorders include:
  • Paranoid Personality Disorder: The basis of this disease is paranoia, which is a persistent mistrust and suspicion of people around for no apparent cause. People with paranoid personality disorder frequently assume that people are attempting to humiliate, injure, or threaten them.
  • Schizoid Personality Disorder: This disorder is characterized by a total lack of disinterest in interpersonal connections and a constant pattern of alienation from other people. When dealing with others, people with schizoid personality disorder exhibit a fixed range of emotions.
  • Schizotypal Personality Disorder: People with this disorder exhibit a regular pattern of great discomfort with and a lack of need for intimate connections. Relationships may suffer as a result of their warped perceptions of reality, superstitions, and strange manners of action.

Cluster B Personality Disorders

Cluster B describes highly emotional, dramatic, or unpredictable thought processes. Below includes the different types of cluster B personality disorders:
  • Antisocial Personality Disorder: This disorder is illustrated by an attitude of disdain for or violation of the rights of others. A person with antisocial personality disorder may have trouble complying with social standards, act impulsively, or lie or deceive others regularly.
  • Borderline Personality Disorder: A person with borderline personality disorder, also referred to as BPD, will exhibit volatility in strong emotions, interpersonal relationships, impulsivity, and a negative self-image. This disorder is also linked to suicidal behaviors or extreme rage. According to nationwide studies, 1.6% of people have BPD, with 5.9% experiencing BPD at least once in their lives.2
  • Histrionic Personality Disorder: This personality disorder is characterized by attitudes of disproportionate emotion and attention seeking. People with histrionic personality disorder may feel uneasy when they don’t get the desired attention and can be found using attributes like physical appearance and strange behaviors to draw people’s attention to themselves. They may also exhibit exaggerated fast-changing emotions.
  • Narcissistic Personality Disorder: People with narcissistic personality disorder lack empathy for others and have a strong need for admiration. Exaggerated feelings of pride and exploitation of others are common characteristics.

Cluster C Personality Disorders

People with cluster C personality disorders exhibit intense fear or anxiety. They include:
  • Avoidant Personality Disorder: Also known as anxious personality disorder, avoidant personality disorder causes patients to feel tense, inadequate, worried, and insecure, making them feel and act awkward in social scenarios. They dislike criticism and possess low self-esteem. 
  • Dependent Personality Disorder: Patients with dependent personality disorder allow others to take responsibility for some aspects of their life. They may lack self-confidence or are unable to perform things on their own, allowing other people to make decisions for them. People with this disorder usually prioritize their needs over the needs of others, yet they have this fear of being alone or abandoned.
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder: Also known as anankastic personality disorder, patients of this personality disorder are worried about items that appear disorganized or messy. They become obsessed over minor issues and can be extremely careful in many circumstances. Some people might interpret this as being too controlling.

Personality Disorders Causes and Risk Factors

The causes and risk factors associated with personality disorders will be discussed further below.


Research suggests that specific genes are responsible for personality disorders. Particularly, genes linked to aggression, anger, and fear are deemed to play a vital role in the development of these disorders.

Brain Function

Variations and differences in brain structure and chemistry have been identified as causes of personality disorder. They have been proven to affect personality and hormone imbalances.


One study has found a significant connection between traumatic experiences and personality disorders. Researchers discovered that BPD was present in patients who reported the highest rate of trauma, especially childhood sexual abuse, the youngest age of traumatic exposure, and the highest rate of posttraumtic stress disorder (PTSD)

In addition, more severe personality disorders were linked to higher rates of physical assault and multiple types of trauma.3


Research suggests that abuse, specifically verbal abuse, experienced during childhood significantly impacts the chance of developing a personality disorder. 

One study found that children who were verbally abused are three times more likely to develop BPD, narcissistic personality disorder, obsessive-compulsive personality disorder, or paranoid personality disorder as adults.4

Environmental, Cultural, and Social Factors

Environmental, social, and cultural variables can affect the development of personality disorders.

Signs and Symptoms of Personality Disorder

Each personality disorder category has unique indicators and symptoms. Nonetheless, personality disorders generally involve the following:


Because of their problematic beliefs, thought processes, and actions, people with personality disorders find it difficult to build deep and peaceful relationships with others. Emotional disconnect, lack of empathy or regard for others, and extreme demand for attention and care are all characteristics that impact their ability to form healthy relationships.


Individuals with personality disorders usually lack a clear image of themselves and struggle with their identity. They may commonly change or alter their personality or identity depending on the people around them or their environment. Their self-esteem levels are usually exaggerated, either high or low.
Common symptoms of various personality disorders will be further explained below.

Borderline Personality Disorder Symptoms

Symptoms of borderline personality disorder may include:
  • An acute fear of being abandoned
  • A pattern of unstable relationships
  • Sudden and repeated shifts in self-identity
  • Loss of contact with reality
  • Paranoia
  • Suicidal threats or self-inflicted injuries 
  • Extreme mood swings 
  • Excessive, inappropriate displays of rage

Narcissistic Personality Disorder Symptoms

Symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder may include:
  • Pride
  • Exaggerated sense of self-importance
  • Sense of entitlement
  • Lack of empathy for other people
  • A need for excessive admiration
  • Belittle others

Symptoms of Multiple Personality Disorder

Symptoms of multiple personality disorder can include:

Other Personality Disorder Symptoms

Some other signs of personality disorder may include:
  • Taking risks
  • Need for instant gratification
  • Suspicion and distrust
Personality Disorders

Treatment for Personality Disorder

It is critical to recognize that personality disorders are mental health conditions. Seeking care as soon as symptoms occur, like any mental health disorder, can help reduce the problems and symptoms the patient faces. 

Personality disorder treatment regimens designed by mental health specialists can assist you in managing your thoughts and actions. Below are some of the most common and effective personality disorder treatment options.


Psychotherapy involves therapeutic strategies adopted to help identify and alter upsetting thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. Also known as talk therapy, it is proven to aid in the management of personality disorders.

The key objectives of psychotherapy are:
  • Helping patients understand that their problems are not caused by other people or events. 
  • Identifying and changing the personality traits causing problems.
  • Reducing the impacts of anxiety and depression.


Currently, there are presently no medications licensed to treat any personality condition. Nonetheless, medications used for other mental health disorders are commonly prescribed to help alleviate various symptoms of personality disorders, such as:
  • Antidepressants: These drugs can help those experiencing depressive symptoms associated with personality disorders, including depression, anger, hopelessness, and irritability. 
  • Mood Stabilizers: Mood-stabilizing medicine can regulate mood swings. 
  • Antipsychotic Medications: Also known as neuroleptics, these medications help with symptoms of psychosis and can alleviate anxiety and anger. 

Inpatient/Residential Treatment Programs

Many inpatient centers offer treatment programs for personality disorders. Residential programs involve the patients living at the facility for the duration of their treatment, offering twenty-four-seven care and support. This treatment option provides a safe and positive environment to help people in the best way possible.

Finding Help at Ripple Ranch Recovery

Ripple Ranch Recovery is a high-quality mental care and treatment center offering evidence-based and holistic services for various personality disorders. We are here to help and support you every step of the way. 

Contact us at Ripple Ranch Recovery today to learn more about our programs and begin your treatment journey.