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What is a personality disorder?

According to the American Psychiatric Association, a personality disorder is a way of thinking, feeling, and behaving that deviates from the expectations of the culture, causes distress or problems functioning, and lasts over time.  There are 10 specific types of personality disorders.

Personality disorders affect at least two of these areas:

  • Way of thinking about oneself and others
  • Way of responding emotionally
  • Way of relating to other people
  • Way of controlling one’s behavior

Personality disorders occur in 10 to 20 percent of the general population, and they can last for decades. A personality disorder is also a predisposing factor for other psychiatric disorders, such as substance abuse, suicide, affective disorders, impulse-control disorders, eating disorders, and anxiety disorders. Individuals with personality disorders are far more likely to refuse psychiatric help and to deny their problems than persons with other mental health conditions. That’s because they are not concerned about their maladaptive behavior.

Mental Health Library Sources:

Information included in all topics of the Mental Health Library comes from the Desk Reference to the Diagnostic Criteria From DSM-5 and Kaplan & Sadock’s Concise Textbook of Clinical Psychiatry. Complete diagnostic and treatment information may be found within these publications.


Information within the Mental Health Library is not intended to be used for self-diagnosis purposes. Rather, it is provided as a public educational service to make people aware of mental health conditions. Please consult a qualified mental health professional for a diagnosis of any suspected mental health illness.

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