What Are the Three Most Common Personality Disorders?

What Are the Three Most Common Personality Disorders

The human personality is a complicated yet fascinating aspect of what makes you, you.

Your unique quirks, eccentricities, likes, dislikes, and even your propensity for raspberry jam and cheese sandwiches make you the incredible, unique individual you are.

Defining personality 

Your personality is made up of how you behave, think and feel. Most of these things are tied up in genetics, environmental influences and how you think and see things in general.

In psychology, there’s a ton of research around personality development, including countless studies on personality disorders. 

Understandably, you may have some questions about all this, such as:

What makes a personality “disordered”? Or, what if my unique traits are mistaken for a mental illness?

Here’s the truth

sad depressed child sitting alone

Diagnosing personality disorders is not always as straightforward as you might think – various factors contribute to why a person behaves, thinks and feels the way they do.

In our experience, destructive, self-sabotaging behaviours such as substance abuse, poor stress management, or persistent relationship problems are often associated with various manifestations of trauma. These traumas may include:

  • Childhood neglect or abuse
  • Intimate partner violence
  • Poverty
  • Divorce
  • A parent suffering from a mental health condition such as substance addiction

Trauma and mental health disorders

Studies show that people who experience trauma are three times more likely to have depression.

In addition, trauma survivors are fifteen times more likely to attempt suicide, four times more likely to become alcoholics and inject drugs, and three times more likely to use antidepressant medications.

Let’s look at the vital link between personality disorders and trauma.

Trauma and personality disorders

A significant study on borderline personality disorder (BPD) showed a vital link between adverse experiences and their effects on mental health.

The researchers found that the most common adverse experiences reported by BPD patients included the following:

  • Physical neglect (48.9%)
  • Physical abuse (36.4%)
  • Emotional neglect (25.3%)
  • Emotional abuse (42.5%)
  • Sexual abuse (32.1%)

Why do you need to know all this?

There is some stigma around personality disorders, even in today’s “woke” culture.

You’d be hard-pressed to scroll past your newsfeed nowadays without seeing the word “narcissism” crop up at least once. 

All this is fine; awareness is good. 

But how much of this information is accurate, and how much of it isn’t? To answer this question, let’s take a deeper look at personality disorders.

Personality disorders – what are they, and what type of person develops them?

concurrent disorder depressed woman

You may think of personality disorders as sitting on a spectrum. 

For example, someone with a history of childhood abuse or neglect may experience specific emotions like anger or agitation more intensely than someone who experienced a relatively relaxed, docile upbringing.

Many trauma specialists believe that most mental health disorders are responses to different manifestations of trauma.

For instance, a person with an abusive childhood reacts to their adult environment as a sort of conditioning from their past.

Coping mechanisms

Some experts believe that various mental health symptoms are merely coping mechanisms, a way a person learns to cope in their early environment.

Let’s look at narcissistic personality disorder as an example of this. 

A person with continuous attention-seeking behaviours (a classic trait of narcissism) could be an expression of their early survival mechanisms.

For instance, the individual learned early on that to win the approval or attention of a parent, they had to act up or “put on a show”. 

In adulthood, the person may take all this further and engage in grandiose behaviour, another narcissistic trait.

In this example, there’s a chance the individual believes they are not getting what they need in their immediate environment; perhaps their spouse is fed up with their constant need for attention and thus begins to shut them out. 

What happens, then?

It’s likely that the individual’s “symptoms” become more rigid, inflexible and destructive when this happens. The more people don’t get what they want or feel they deserve, the more dangerous and self-sabotaging the behaviours become.

When this happens, a person will likely experience much distress and dysfunction in their life- including relationship struggles, self-image problems, work issues, and an inability to regulate emotions.

Many of which are symptoms of personality disorders.

To help you understand more about these conditions, let’s look at the three most common personality disorders.

The three most common personality disorders

sad depressed couple arguing

A personality disorder is much more than a person having a bad day, week or even month.

These conditions involve long-lasting, destructive behavioural patterns – research shows that personality disorder signs and symptoms usually appear in a person’s teenage years or early twenties.

Other studies show that the three most common personality disorders are narcissistic personality disorder, obsessive-compulsive personality disorder and borderline personality disorder.

According to the diagnostic and statistical manual of mental health disorders, fifth edition (DSM -5), there are ten personality disorders.

They include:

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

Now, for a more in-depth outline of the three most common personality disorders.

Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD)

Individuals with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) usually exhibit overly emotional, dramatic and attention-seeking behaviours.

People with NPD often have a sense of grandeur, believing they are more “special” than others and are entitled to a particular treatment.

Narcissistic individuals have a profound need for admiration, praise and attention; they can also be hypersensitive to criticism and may overreact to any comments that might be perceived as negative or critical.

Symptoms

Symptoms of NPD may include:

  • Needing a lot of admiration and attention
  • An inflated sense of self-importance
  • The belief that others are inferior and only hanging around those that are superior (to match the narcissists’ sense of superiority)
  • A severe lack of empathy and compassion for others
  • Being envious of others and believing others are jealous of you
  • Fantasies of beauty, wealth, fame, and brilliance
  • Relationship difficulties, mainly when people do not give you the treatment you think you deserve
  • Feeling superior to others.
  • Deep-seated insecurities about the self

Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD)

Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder - Centres for Health and Healing

An obsessive-compulsive personality disorder is not the same condition as OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder).

OCPD is a condition marked by an excessive obsession with rules, order and perfectionism. Studies show that three to eight per cent of the population has OCPD. In addition, the condition is more common in older people.

Symptoms

Symptoms of OCPD may include:

  • Unwillingness to delegate tasks to other people
  • Following rules rigidly
  • Excessive preoccupation with work which may affect your interpersonal relationships
  • Perfectionism (to the point where you are unable to complete tasks or projects)
  • A significant need for order that impacts your ability to function properly
  • Fixating on tasks, lists, and small details to the extent that you may miss the point of the project or task

Borderline personality disorder (BPD)

Recent studies have shown that in the US alone, over four million people have borderline personality disorder, a condition marked by emotional instability, persistent relationship problems, impulsivity, issues with self-image, and changing moods.

Borderline personality disorder is a severe mental health condition that can cause profound distress since individuals with the disorder often feel their emotions intensely.

People with BPD may struggle to maintain an emotional baseline, affecting their relationships and how they view themselves.

Symptoms

Symptoms of borderline personality disorder may include:

  • Black and white thinking or ‘’all-or-nothing-thinking’’ – this includes believing that people are either ‘’all bad’’ or ‘’all good’’
  • Profound fear of abandonment
  • Self-destructive behaviours, including unprotected sex, reckless driving or substance abuse
  • Bouts of intense emotion, including anxiety, anger, guilt, shame, depression, and agitation
  • An inability to manage stress
  • Troubled relationships
  • A negative self-image
  • Self-harm

Treatment for personality disorders

young-woman-in-group-therapy

Many people with personality disorders benefit from therapy, particularly cognitive therapies.

Common treatment recommendations for personality disorders will depend on the type of personality disorder, severity of symptoms and a person’s history.

Most people respond well to a mixture of therapy and medication.

Various cognitive therapies can help reduce your symptoms, allowing you to reframe your thoughts and feelings and thus learn healthier ways of coping with stress.

These treatments include:

Contacting Centres for Health and Healing

Fortunately, there is a way to treat personality disorders that ultimately allow people to lead happy, fulfilling, healthy lives.

If you think you may have a personality disorder, you must speak to a doctor or mental health professional for further advice and support.

Our specialist team can provide you with a safe space to talk about your concerns and worries and, depending on the outcome, create a personalised treatment program that can help alleviate your symptoms and help you regain control over your life.

There is a way to start feeling better, and the first step is usually to speak to someone who can offer you proper guidance and support as you move toward wellness and fulfilment. 

Contact a friendly team member at Centres for Health and Healing today for further support and information.

Additional resources

  1. Common Personality Disorders, WebMD, Dayva Segal, 9th September 2021
  2. Borderline Personality Disorder has strongest link to childhood trauma, The University of Manchester, 19th November 2019
Lisa Davies - Program Director of Vaughan Recovery and Kirby Estate

About Lisa Davies

Lisa is the Program Director at Centres for Health and Healing. She lived for most of her life in the Durham region, before moving to Peel five years ago.

Lisa is a Master Hypnotist and is certified in Hypnotherapy (2008), Self-Hypnosis and in 5-phase Advanced Therapeutic Healing. As a Member of National Guild of Hypnotists, she is also specialized in hypnosis training in pediatrics, pain management, neuro-linguistic and stage programming.

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