We all have quirks and flaws. But how do you know when your personality traits are symptoms of a personality disorder?
A personality disorder is a mental health condition that can make it difficult for folks to maintain healthy relationships or interact with others.
Your personality makes you who you are. It influences how you perceive and interact with the world around you.
Someone with a personality disorder might seem “set in their ways” and have trouble adapting to situations and life changes. You may not form friendships or close bonds as easily as some personality traits may get in the way of forming interpersonal relationships.
But everyone runs into issues with relationships at one time or another. A disagreement with a co-worker, a tiff with a friend, an argument with your parents. So how can you tell if you or someone you know has a personality disorder?
While there are 10 different personality disorders, many of them share similar symptoms.
1. Issues with self-esteem
Personality disorders can cause you to have very high or very low self-esteem. For some people, self-image can also fluctuate.
For example, one minute, you might think of yourself as a kind, loving person, and the next, you may believe you’re unpleasant and cruel. This unstable self-image often arises in borderline personality disorder (BPD).
People with certain personality disorders may have an overblown sense of self, known as grandiosity, and believe they’re better or smarter than others. This is a common feature of narcissistic personality disorder.
2. Inconsistent values
Your values may seem inconsistent, too. For example, you might behave appropriately at work but act differently at home.
For example, someone may appear put together and polite in a work setting but go home and act abusively toward their loved ones. This may be the case with antisocial personality disorder.
3. Problems maintaining close relationships
A personality disorder can make it tough to maintain relationships because strong personality traits may put off others. Your behavior may frustrate others and make them less likely to want to spend time around you.
It can be hard to maintain relationships if you consistently run into misunderstandings with others. For people with personality disorders, this is common. You may project motivations and feelings onto others that don’t exist.
4. Difficulty with empathy
If you have a personality disorder, you may also have trouble empathizing with other people. You may come across as insensitive or uncaring.
Some people may resort to lying, regardless of how it affects others. They may lie to avoid accepting the blame for their behavior.
5. Trouble with boundaries
People with personality disorders may also refuse or find it hard to establish and recognize boundaries with others. You may not care about maintaining or paying attention to boundaries.
Depending on your personality disorder, you may not mean to overstep boundaries. Instead, you may find it hard to know when you’re overstepping. Some people may even overstep knowingly, even when someone tells them no.
6. Problematic parenting styles
Parents with personality disorders may have abusive or irresponsible parenting styles.
Some people with personality disorders may be too involved in their children’s lives, overly emotional, and too enmeshed in family relationships.
Others may be extremely detached and uninvolved in their child’s lives.
In many cases, the children of people with personality disorders will be impacted by their parents’ behaviors.
7. Difficulty regulating emotions
If you have a personality disorder, you may have trouble keeping your emotions in check. You may get angry easily or be quick to react in frustration when something isn’t going your way.
For instance, someone with BPD may have intense mood swings or lash out to seek attention. And someone with histrionic personality disorder may experience rapidly changing, shallow emotions.
And symptoms of BPD include feelings of emptiness and angry outbursts.
8. Problems with stress
If you have a personality disorder, you may find it hard to cope with stressful situations and events. You may try to cope with stress in unhealthy ways.
For example, someone with BPD may self-harm in reaction to managing life with BPD symptoms, such as feelings of abandonment and current causes of stress.
9. Low self-awareness
Often, people with personality disorders can’t recognize or acknowledge they have a mental health condition. You may be in denial and refuse to seek treatment even when those around you urge you to get help.
You may also blame other people for your behavior or problems.
For example, if you’re having relationship trouble, you may regularly fail to accept responsibility for the part you play and blame issues on your partner.
For instance, people with obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD) may not realize their preoccupation with organization, schedules, and work projects is affecting their relationships and feel very resistant to change or compromise.
10. Difficulty at work
Personality disorders can make relationships hard. And they can also make it tough to perform in a professional work setting. You may butt heads with bosses or co-workers and find it hard to work on a team.
But angry outbursts aren’t the only potential professional roadblock.
Someone with schizoid personality disorder, for example, may have a hard time holding a job because they may be withdrawn or very shy.
Personality disorders can be divided into three clusters: A, B, and C.
Cluster A personality disorders
If you have a cluster A personality disorder, you may appear odd to others. You likely have trouble with social interactions.
Cluster B personality disorders
If you have a cluster B personality disorder, you probably have difficulty controlling your emotions and may act out unpredictably.
- borderline personality disorder
- narcissistic personality disorder
- histrionic personality disorder
- antisocial personality disorder
Cluster C personality disorders
If you have a cluster C personality disorder, you may be more anxious and fearful. You may spend an unhealthy amount of time doubting yourself and your abilities.
You might find yourself looking through the above list and noticing traits within yourself. We all act out in anger or become overly emotional from time to time, especially when faced with high amounts of stress.
But to receive a diagnosis of a personality disorder, you must have an enduring pattern of inner experiences and behavior that differs markedly from cultural expectations and norms. The symptoms must span social and work situations (e.g., not just at work). Two or more of the following areas will be impacted:
- cognitions (thoughts)
- interpersonal relationships
- impulse control
These attributes will also likely interfere in your life and may even cause you to lose out on relationships or professional opportunities.
Personality disorders are complex conditions, but treatment is available.
Personality disorders are not easily self-diagnosed, partly because those who have them don’t see their problematic symptoms. Only a mental health professional can diagnose a personality disorder. If you think you or someone you know shows signs of a personality disorder, consider reaching out to a mental health professional.
Recognizing you may have a mental health condition is the first step to feeling better and cultivating healthier relationships. And remember, you’re not alone. Having a personality disorder can feel isolating, but help is available.
Consider looking through the following resources for more information about personality disorders and available treatment options: