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What is a "personality disorder"?

Personality Disorder Basics

Rhoda Hahn (Psychiatrist) gives expert video advice on: What is a "personality disorder"? and more...

What is a "personality disorder"?

Personality traits which everyone has, you know are enduring patterns of interacting with others, perceiving the universe and even thinking about oneself . So these are the things that make you: you . All these little quirks or characteristics that you have, that people can actually predict. Now, as I mentioned, since everyone has personality traits, they become personality disorders .When those personality traits become maladaptive interfere with your ability to function socially, occupationally and they are often very inflexible. So for example, I think, you know, you have a certain way of dealing with the universe, that may not necessarily be maladaptive .Where it becomes maladaptive and turns into a personality disorder and what we see clinically, is when people use to having same way of dealing with the universe in every single situation.You know, I think a mentally healthy person would have some flexibility, they would be able to look at it assess the situation and go: "Oh hey! I should handle this, this way" and in a different situation they switch tools and handle it in a different way .

What are "Cluster A" personality disorders?

The clusters were created more for discussion purposes rather than having any true clinical importance or significance. But cluster A consists of paranoid, schizoid and schizotypal personality disorders. They are part of the so-called schizophrenia spectrum. In other words, they may actually represent milder variants of schizophrenia. So if you think about having schizophrenia out here, then maybe the personality disorder's here, with schizoaffective in there, they represent a continuum in terms of severity of illness. I think there's some evidence to suggest that people with paranoid, schizoid and schizotypal personality disorders are seen more frequently in the first-degree relatives of patients with schizophrenia. They may actually also represent co-morbid diagnoses, in other words, patients who later go on and develop schizophrenia may actually have these personality disorders prior to actually developing schizophrenia. I think this particular cluster is the one in which there's probably the strongest argument for a genetic component to personality disorders, or some kind of biological basis.

What are "Cluster B" personality disorders?

These are the sort of more dramatic personality disorders. I would tell you there's probably more literature on these. Just tons of things that have been written and discussed about these personality disorders. "Cluster B" is antisocial, borderline, histrionic and narcissistic personality disorders. They're discussed in one cluster I think because there's quite a bit of overlap. You'll see people with features of more than one quite frequently among these four. There isn't really a strong genetic component that one can discuss as with "Cluster A".

What are "Cluster C" personality disorders?

Cluster "C" consists of avoidant personality disorder, dependant personality disorder and obsessive compulsive personality disorder. What these three personalities share is an intense amount of anxiety. These people are incredibly anxious and there's quite a bit of overlap between dependant and avoidant personality disorder. However I'd tell you, obsessive compulsive probably stands more by itself from a clinical stand point in terms of the symptoms. However again, they all share that common anxiety component.