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    Personality disorders

    Personality disorders are a group ofmental healthconditions in which a person has a long-term patternof behaviors, emotions, and thoughts that is very different fromhis or herculture's expectations. These behaviors interfere with the person's ability to function in relationships, work, or other settings.


    Causes of personality disorders are unknown. Genetic and environmental factors are thought to play a role.

    Mental health professionals categorize these disorders into the following types:

    • Antisocial personality disorder
    • Avoidant personality disorder
    • Borderline personality disorder
    • Dependent personality disorder
    • Histrionic personality disorder
    • Narcissistic personality disorder
    • Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder
    • Paranoid personality disorder
    • Schizoid personality disorder
    • Schizotypal personality disorder


    Symptoms vary widely depending on the type of personality disorder.

    In general, personality disorders involve feelings, thoughts, and behaviors that do not adapt to a wide range of settings.

    These patterns usually begin in adolescence and may lead to problems in social and work situations.

    The severity of these conditions ranges from mild to severe.

    Exams and Tests

    Personality disorders are diagnosed based on a psychological evaluationthat assessesthe history and severity of the symptoms.


    At first, people with these disorders usually do not seek treatment on their own. They tend to seek help once their behavior has caused severe problems in their relationships or work. They may also seek help when they arestruggling with anothermental healthproblem, such as a mood or substance abuse disorder.

    Although personality disorders take time to treat, certain forms of talk therapy are helpful. In some cases, medications are a useful addition.

    Outlook (Prognosis)

    Outlook varies. Some personality disordersimprove greatlyduring middle age without any treatment. Others only improve slowly even with treatment.

    Possible Complications

    • Problems with relationships
    • Problems with school or work
    • Othermental healthdisorders

    When to Contact a Medical Professional

    Seeyour health care provider or mental health professional if you or someone you know has symptoms of a personality disorder.


    Blais MA, Smallwood P, Groves JE, Rivas-Vazquez RA. Personality and personality disorders. In: Stern TA, Rosenbaum JF, Biederman J, Rauch SL, eds. Massachusetts General Hospital Comprehensive Clinical Psychiatry. 1st ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Mosby; 2008:chap 39.


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                Review Date: 11/10/2012

                Reviewed By: David B. Merrill, MD, Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, Department of Psychiatry, Columbia University Medical Center, New York, NY. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, David R. Eltz, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.

                The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

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