The Top 10 Personality Disorders: Symptoms and Signs
When someone's behavior seems off, it might be more than just a mood.
Posted Dec 15, 2017
There’s a “Top 10” list of just about everything these days and as the year comes to an end, it seems that we like to do a “countdown” of just about everything. Well, here’s a countdown of personality disorders and some questions to ask yourself if someone you’re interested in or who is trying to get close to you is sending up red flags when you’re in their company. Note that only about 10% of the population suffers from diagnosable personality disorders in total and the rate for each disorder below is in parentheses following its name.
Bear in mind that personality disorders are long-lasting and fairly entrenched behavioral patterns. In fact, the individuals who are displaying the behaviors congruent with most personality disorders are not even aware that their behaviors are disordered. This means that once the initial attraction wears off and the odd or eccentric behavioral patterns wear thin, there is seldom much hope of seeing lasting change. Therapy and psychopharmacological treatments can reduce or manage symptoms, but the person who is diagnosed with one of the following 10 disorders is unlikely to be able to manage the symptoms on their own for the long haul.
1. Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder (7.9%)
Individuals who suffer from the tendency to be a “little OCD” are nothing compared to those individuals who are diagnosed with Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder. While the signs are distinct from those of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), an individual with OCPD may have a difficult time functioning in daily life due to an obsessive preoccupation with rules and orderliness.
Ask Yourself: Is this person’s endearing habits of making sure the cat is fed and the bedroom door locked amusing quirks or are these symptoms of something more debilitating? Does this person’s need to cut his meat into exactly seven pieces make you giggle or cringe when it’s happening at every meal no matter where you’re dining? Is the compulsive behavior getting in the way of daily life and keeping this person from enjoying the normal unpredictability and spontaneity of living?
2. Narcissistic Personality Disorder (6.2%)
The true narcissist is much different than the individual who just happens to have high self-esteem. Narcissists are motivated by the desire to use a heavy hand to control a person’s response to them, but having a high sense of self-esteem doesn’t typically reflect a need to control others, but rather self-satisfaction. Narcissists are incapable of much empathy and typically use their limited people skills in ways that serve them in their bids for attention and praise.
Ask Yourself: Does this person wear you down with her need for adoration? Do you feel that when she does something thoughtful for you that it’s a way to increase your appreciation or indebtedness to her?
3. Borderline Personality Disorder (5.9%)
These individuals are considered “borderline” due to the lack of clear ego boundaries that they possess. They may become overly invested in a relationship and respond to any hint of trouble between themselves and a partner in a manner out of proportion to the situation. Their instability extends to emotional responses, personal relationships, and tendencies towards suicidal behaviors. They love you more than anyone else until you miss a step and you’re cast into the role of the enemy before you know it.
Ask Yourself: Do I feel as if the world is spinning out of control when she gets angry? Do I feel afraid to disagree or correct her if she’s wrong?
4. Paranoid Personality Disorder (4.4%)
These individuals aren’t just careful about home security, they are obsessed with the suspicion that others are intentionally trying to do them harm. These individuals may behave quite oddly and their day-to-day lives can become increasingly constrained by their fears. They may confide their fears to you conspiratorially and while you might be flattered by being cast as the “good guy,” their fears may be delusions and they may need more than simple empathy or support.
Ask Yourself: Do the behaviors of this person seem normal compared to other people who have dealt with the kinds of things this person fears? Does this person seem unable to trust anyone at all or do they truly believe that even their families or friends are “out to get them”?
5. Schizotypal Personality Disorder (3.9%)
These individuals also are likely to behave in ways that are far from the norm of typically interpersonal attraction. They may have odd beliefs about the world around them and be highly resistant to any kind of interpersonal relationship forays from others.
Ask Yourself: Does this person seem to be living in a world of their own and do they have proper care?
6. Antisocial Personality Disorder (3.6%)
Individuals with this disorder exhibit behaviors that reflect a disregard for the feelings or personhood of others. They may engage in intentional deception, impulsive action, and unlawful behaviors. Unfortunately, they may have the skills necessary to present as potentially attractive partners, but are only using the façade to con their prey into trusting them enough that they can take advantage. There’s little empathy among this group and their primary motivation is typically getting what they want.
Ask Yourself: Does this person seem unusually disinterested in intimacy? Does this person seem to lack a sense of morality or honesty? Does this person seem not to care about how her actions affect others?
7. Schizoid Personality Disorder (3.1%)
These individuals are unlikely to find themselves in any type of close relationship with others. There is a sense of preoccupation with their own internal worlds and they are unlikely to show much emotional expression or interpersonal interactions at all.
Ask Yourself: Does this person seem to be unaware of the world or the people around him and does this person have proper care?
8. Avoidant Personality Disorder (2.4%)
Individuals with this disorder have a very difficult time forming relationships, including with their families, peers, or potential romantic partners. Their fear of being rejected is so strong that they protect themselves by avoiding involvement or interactions of any depth with others.
Ask Yourself: Does this person seem to find reasons to avoid being with me? Does this person have any significant relationships in his life? Friends? Family? Former romantic partners?
9. Histrionic Personality Disorder (1.8%)
While the narcissistic person loves attention and tries hard to convince those around him that he’s as wonderful as he believes himself to be, the person diagnosed with histrionic personality disorder is desperate to get attention in whatever way she must. She might be the “life of the party” until her need for attention keeps her antics getting more and more explosive or excessive. Whether it’s physical appearance or story-telling or super-sized emotional displays, this person does what she can to make sure everyone knows what she is feeling or needing at that moment in time.
Ask Yourself: Do I find myself growing tired of having to constantly validate this person? Does the attention-seeking behavior get in the way of real one-on-one communication? Does she have a need for attention that one person could never satisfy?
10. Dependent Personality Disorder (.5%)
While we all should enjoy being interdependent with other people, such as friends, colleagues, or romantic partners, the person who suffers from Dependent Personality Disorder is overly needy, excessively clingy, and needs reassurance from her significant others in order to make decisions about her own life. These individuals can wear down the good nature of the kindest soul and in primary relationships, their dependence may lead to behaviors that drive away their partners.
Ask Yourself: Does this person make me feel needed or overwhelm me with his neediness? When we’re together, is our relationship more likely to make us feel like “the whole is more than the sum of the parts” or does he make me feel that he’s not “whole” without me?
All of us are attracted to different people for different reasons, but if someone's behavior seems a little "too" different, listen to your instincts. Make sure that you're aware of the risks and the necessary costs before letting yourself start believing that you can change someone to suit your needs; disappointment is likely what you'll find instead of the long-term happiness you might be seeking.
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Sansone, R. A., & Sansone, L. A. (2011). Personality Disorders: A Nation-based Perspective on Prevalence. Innovations in Clinical Neuroscience, 8(4), 13–18.