Personality Disorders

Personality disorders are deeply ingrained, rigid ways of thinking and behaving that result in straind relationships with others and often cause distress for the individual who experiences them as well as those around them. Mental health professionals formally recognize 10 disorders that fall into three clusters, although there much overlap between the disorders, each of which exists on a spectrum: 

  • Cluster A — Odd or eccentric disorder – paranoid personality disorder, as well as schizoid and schizotypal personalities. 
  • Cluster B — Dramatic or erratic disorders – narcissistic personality disorder, histrionic personality disorder, and borderline personality disorder. 
  • Cluster C — Anxious or fearful disorders –avoidant personality disorder, dependent personality disorder, and obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCD). 

Studies show genetics and abuse factor contribute to the development of obsessive-compulsive, narcissistic or other personality disorders.
Previously, some believed that people with personality disorders were just lazy or mean, however, new research has begun to explore such potential causes as genetics, parenting and social influences. 


Researchers are beginning to identify possible genetic factors leading to personality disorders.  A malfunctioning gene may be a factor in obsessive-compulsive disorder, while other researchers are exploring genetic links to aggression, anxiety, and fear.  Common traits that can play a role in personality disorders. 

Childhood Trauma 

Findings from one of the largest studies of personality disorders suggest the role of childhood experiences. The research shows the correlation between the number and type of childhood traumas and the development of personality disorders. People with borderline personality disorder, for example, had especially high rates of childhood sexual trauma. 

Verbal Abuse 

Even verbal abuse can have an impact on personality. In a study of 793 mothers and children, researchers asked mothers if they had screamed at their children, told them they didn’t love them or threatened to send them away. Children who had experienced such verbal abuse were three times as likely as other children to have borderline, narcissistic, obsessive-compulsive or paranoid personality disorders in adulthood. 

High Reactivity 

Sensitivity to light, noise, texture, and other stimuli may also play a role. Overly sensitive children, or “high reactivity,” are more likely to develop shy, timid or anxious personalities. However, high reactivity’s role is still far from cut and dryFor example some twenty percent of infants are highly reactive, but less than 10 percent go on to develop social phobias. 


Certain factors can help prevent children from developing personality disorders. Even a single strong relationship with a relative, teacher or friend can offset negative influences. 

This is just a sample of the complex issues that personality disorders deal with.  While far from complete, this should give you a brief outline of symptoms and characteristics of types of personality disorders.   

If you think that you or a loved one is dealing with personality disorders, fill out the information below to request an appointment with our psychiatrist.  

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