What are the main types of personality disorders?

Main types of personality disorders - Centres for Health and Healing

Personality gets conceptualized in many different ways, and the scientific world of psychology has provided us with many fruitful explanations, theories, and studies around how human character develops.

Personality traits

Perhaps the most influential (albeit controversial) theorist is Sigmund Freud, an Austrian psychoanalyst famous for his controversial theories around personality development.

Freud hypothesized that all humans go through several sub-stages of development from birth to adolescence.

Psychosexual stages

Freud entitled his five crucial stages as the ‘psychosexual’ stages of development, which include:

  • Oral(0.1.5 years old), during the oral stage of development, everything a child does is fixated on all things oral. If, for whatever reason, a child develops a fixation during this stage, they will likely develop negative oral habits or behaviours.
  • Anal(1.5 to 3 years old), this stage of development gets centred around toilet training. Again, if fixation occurs at this stage, a child may develop personality traits such as stubbornness and miserliness.
  • Phallic (3 – 5 years of age). The phallic stage has gotten viewed as the most controversial where Freud hypothesized that children develop healthy substitutes to compensate for their attraction to the opposite sex parent.
  • Latency(5 – 12 years of age). Children progress into having healthier attractions towards other children of the opposite sex.
  • Genital (12 – upwards), all tasks are completed from the four earlier stages and are integrated into the mind to develop healthy sexual feelings and behaviours.

Definition of personality

According to Freud,

Human personality emerges as a composite of early childhood experiences, based on how these experiences get consciously or unconsciously processed within human developmental phases, and how these experiences shape the personality.’

The development of certain personality traits

Suppose we were to take Freud’s psychosexual theory into account. In that case, the development of specific personality traits arises from fixation (or a lack of focus) at each stage mentioned above.

But what does Freud’s personality model say about personality disorders?

Freud dedicated much of his early work to narcissistic personality disorder, for example, his paper entitled: ”On Narcissism: An Introduction (1914).”

Freud hypothesized that the ego begins to develop in the oral stage of psychosexual development.

Odd beliefs

During that time, the child is profoundly selfish because the mother is meeting all the child’s needs; thus, the belief that they are the centre of the universe becomes ingrained.

However, as the child develops, they realize that the world does not revolve around them and that they cannot always get what they want; thus, their self-centredness declines.

Fragile self-esteem

Freud concluded that all of us have some level of narcissism that we carry inside us at birth and that such traits are necessary for our regular development.

However, once we pass the vital stages of development, our self-love deteriorates, and our love for others grows.

How narcissism develops (according to Freud)

How narcissism develops according to Freud - Centres for Health and Healing

Freud proposed that narcissism takes a two-pronged approach, both of which are motivated by two different types of libidinal energy, such as:

  • Ego-libido. The ego libido represents self-preservation, which is present at birth. This natural self-love is referred to as ‘primary narcissism’ and is necessary for a child’s proper development.
  • Object-libido. Throughout a child’s development, they begin to redirect their libidinal energy towards objects outside of themselves (referred to as object-libido); thus, a balance between auto-eroticism (self-love) and object-love gets established.

The development of the narcissistic personality type

Freud proposed that if the object-love is unreciprocated or a specific trauma prevents the flow of the libido energy to the external object, all libidinal energy returns to the ego.

As a result of such disruption, the individual becomes consumed in profound neurotic self-love.

Freud entitled this ”secondary narcissism” a condition that can lead to other mental disorders, including megalomania, paranoid delusions, and paraphrenia.

Mental disorder

In secondary narcissism, which Freud described as a ”pathological regression to primary narcissism” the trigger may be because of a traumatic event that disrupts and prevents the flow of libido energy to the object-love.

Interpersonal relationships

Freud summarized that by giving love to other people, we inherently use up all the energy available for ourselves.

However, if the love that people give to others is not returned or requited, the belief that the world is not ”worthy of their love” starts to develop.

The above belief system is one of the notable features of narcissistic personality disorder, an exaggerated sense of self that often gets precipitated by emotional instability, extreme fear, and unusual perceptual experiences.

In this overly emotional state, individuals may believe things about themselves that are inaccurate or untrue, and before long, their sense of self becomes eroded.

Other types of personality disorder

Aside from Freud’s theory on narcissism, mental health professionals have identified several other personality disorders, all diagnosed mental health conditions within the diagnostic and statistical manual (DSM – 5).

Personality disorders

As well as a narcissistic personality disorder, other personality disorders include:

Cluster personality disorder types

According to psychologists, personality disorders get grouped into different ”clusters”, i. e. clusters A, B and C.

Each cluster type represents varying features and symptoms associated with each personality disorder and how they present clinically.

Cluster A personality disorder

According to mental health professionals, cluster A personality disorders involve behaviours and beliefs that seem eccentric or unusual to others.

They involve:

  • Schizoid personality disorder
  • Schizotypal personality disorder
  • Paranoid personality disorder

Cluster B personality disorder

Primarily, cluster B disorders involve dramatic, erratic, or emotional behaviour.

They include:

  • Narcissistic personality disorder
  • Histrionic personality disorder
  • Borderline personality disorder
  • Antisocial personality disorder

Cluster C personality disorder

Intense fear and anxiety are the undercurrent features behind cluster C personality disorders.

They include:

  • Avoidant personality disorder
  • Dependent personality disorder
  • Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder

A brief overview of cluster A, B and C personality disorders

Overview of cluster A, B and C personality disorders - Centres for Health and Healing

To be diagnosed with a personality disorder, there are specific criteria that a person must meet.

Mental health professionals describe personality disorders as deeply embedded, inflexible patterns of thinking, relating, and perceiving that are severe enough to cause impaired functioning and distress.

Cluster A

Schizoid personality disorder

Individuals with schizoid personality disorder may often appear cold, detached and aloof.

Those with a schizoid personality disorder often have a hard time relating to others, and as a result, may form close attachments to objects or animals instead of other people.

Such a condition is prevalent in around one percent of the population.


Symptoms of schizoid personality disorder include:

  • Seeking employment that involves minimal interaction with others
  • Avoiding close social contact with others
  • Experiencing difficulty in forming interpersonal relationships
  • Responding to situations or events in a way that may seem inappropriate to others
  • Frequently appearing isolated and withdrawn

Risk factors

People who have schizoid personality disorder may have relatives with the same mental disease or other mental illnesses such as schizophrenia or schizotypal personality disorder.

Paranoid personality disorder

Paranoid personality disorder - Centres for Health and Healing

People with paranoid personality disorder usually demonstrate a profound distrust towards others.

They may believe that others are lying to them or trying to manipulate them in some way, despite a lack of evidence or proof.


Individuals diagnosed with a paranoid personality disorder may exhibit the following behaviours:

  • Fear
  • Hypervigilance
  • Anxiety over other people taking advantage of them
  • Pervasive concerns about hidden meanings or motives
  • Intense anger over perceived mistreatment or abuse
  • Suspicion and mistrust

According to research, approximately 2 -4 percent of the population have a paranoid personality disorder.

Schizotypal personality disorder

Indications that someone may have schizotypal personality disorder are mainly down to a lack of social contacts outside of one’s family.

People with this disorder often find it challenging to understand how relationships develop and how their actions and behaviour affect others.

Risk factors

One of the implications of schizotypal personality disorder is that people with the condition are at a much higher risk of developing schizophrenia than other personality disorders.


Symptoms of schizotypal personality disorder include:

  • Odd beliefs or magical thinking that profoundly impact the person’s behaviour, i.e. they may engage in superstitious thinking, strange fantasies, or ideas about telepathy.
  • Bizarre or inappropriate facial expressions
  • Paranoid thinking and suspicion
  • Behaviour or appearance that may get seen as bizarre, odd or eccentric
  • Unusual perceptual experiences such as bodily illusions or telepathy
  • Severe social anxiety

Cluster B

Narcissistic personality disorder

Narcissistic personality disorder involves a sense of power and self-importance, but at the same time, it can also feature weakness and low self-esteem.

Someone with a narcissistic personality disorder may exhibit the following behaviours:

  • A deep need for admiration and attention
  • The need to exaggerate or embellish on their talents or achievements
  • The expectation that they must have the best of everything
  • Often feels hurt or rejected by others.
  • Exhibits jealous behaviours
  • Is prone to impulsive behaviour
  • Often appears arrogant and pretentious.
  • Demonstrates an inflated sense of self-importance, success, attractiveness, and power

Risk factors

Those with this type of mental illness often find it challenging to maintain close relationships with others.

Borderline personality disorder

One of the main features of borderline personality disorder is when a person cannot regulate or control their emotions.

The type of behaviour that someone with a borderline personality disorder may exhibit includes:

  • Impulsive behaviour
  • Changes in self-image and behaviour
  • Intense mood swings
  • Bouts of profound anger, anxiety, depression, and boredom

Risk factors

The above symptoms range in duration and may last from a few hours to a few days; they can also lead to profound challenges in daily living and be the central cause of relationship problems.

Histrionic personality disorder

Individuals with histrionic personality disorder tend to crave attention and validation from others.

People with such a disorder want people to notice them and reassure them.

The above can also impact the way a person thinks and behaves.


Since those with histrionic personality disorder have an intense need to be loved, this may lead to specific behaviours, such as:

  • Coming across as insincere to others
  • Being flirtatious or provocative
  • Self-centred
  • Emotionally shallow
  • Engaging in risky behaviours as the person seeks excitement and stimulation

Risk factors

Although individuals with histrionic personality disorder appear socially adept, they often experience high levels of stress, all of which can lead to anxiety disorders and depression.

Antisocial personality disorder

Antisocial personality disorder - Centres for Health and Healing

Around 1 – 3 percent of the population have an antisocial personality disorder.

Other studies show that approximately 30-40 percent of those in prison have also been diagnosed with the condition.

One of the main features of antisocial personality disorder is a complete disregard for other people, rules and authorities, particularly without thinking about the consequences of their actions on others.


People with an antisocial personality disorder may:

  • Engage in criminal behaviour
  • Exhibit violent behaviour
  • Be irresponsible or demonstrate delinquent behaviour.

Risk factors

Studies posit that having a conduct disorder before the age of 15 increases a person’s likelihood of developing antisocial personality disorder in adulthood.

Cluster C

Avoidant personality disorder

Someone with an avoidant personality disorder may avoid close interactions with others and social situations, mainly down to a feeling of not being ‘good enough’ or the fear of rejection.

Someone with the above disorder may crave social interaction. But lack the ability or confidence to form healthy relationships.

Individuals with an avoidant personality disorder may:

  • Find it challenging to trust others
  • Feel inadequate
  • Have low self-esteem and suffer from a lack of confidence

Risk factors

Avoidant personality disorder types are at higher risk of contracting eating disorders, depression, and substance abuse disorders.

Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder

Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder - Centres for Health and Healing

Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD) features rigidness and profound perfectionism, where a person’s career dominates their entire life, to the point of risking their relationships.

Unlike obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), OCPD is a personality disorder where an individual focuses on following specific procedures.

Someone with OCPD may:

  • Find it challenging to complete tasks due to high levels of perfectionism.
  • Feel an overwhelming need to control
  • Be extremely inflexible
  • Become distressed or uncomfortable if things are messy
  • Be highly organized and efficient in the workplace.
  • Have trouble delegating tasks to others

Risk factors

The risk factors associated with OCPD are minimal compared to other personality disorders, and those with the condition may find that OCPD enhances their work performance.

The downside of OCPD is that the need to do well can severely impact a person’s personal life.

Dependent personality disorder

Those diagnosed with a dependent personality disorder may get seen as clingy or needy by others.

Individuals with a dependent personality disorder may:

  • Be vulnerable to manipulation and mind games
  • Be overly reliant on other people
  • Dislike being alone
  • Experience a profound fear of abandonment and separation
  • Invest a lot of time and energy into pleasing others
  • Demonstrate a need to be taken care of by others

Risk factors

Studies show that people with dependent personality disorder are more likely to receive verbal and physical abuse by others, such as domestic violence.

Contact us

If you would like to know more about personality disorders or think you might be suffering from one of the conditions mentioned in this article, be sure to contact one of our mental health specialists who can help.

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