Personality Disorders Causes, Statistics, Signs, Symptoms & Side Effects

What Are Personality Disorders?

Personality disorders are mental health illnesses that are characterized by continuing thought and behavior patterns that are rigid in nature.  Individuals who suffer with personality disorders often have difficulty perceiving and relating to situations and other people, including themselves.  Personality disorders are categorized as mental disorders on Axis 11 of the Diagnostic Manual of the American Psychiatric Association and can lead to significant challenges in career, relationships, and social encounters.

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV), personality disorders can be divided into one of four categories, which are as follows:

  • Cluster A (odd or eccentric disorders/ fears social relations):  This category of personality disorders includes paranoid personality disorder, schizoid personality disorder, and schizotypal personality disorder.
  • Cluster B (dramatic, emotional or erratic disorders):  This category of personality disorders includes antisocial personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, histrionic personality disorder, and personality disorder)
  • Cluster C (anxious or fearful disorders):  Personality disorders included in this category are avoidant personality disorder, dependent personality disorder, and obsessive-compulsive personality disorder
  • Appendix B (Criteria sets and axes provided for further study):  This category of personality disorders includes depressive personality disorder and passive-aggressive (negativistic) personality disorder.

Typically, an individual will be classified with personality disorders when their abnormalities or behaviors damage their occupation or social function.  Because there are several issues involved in the classification of a personality disorder, as well as varying categories, it is crucial to enlist the help of a health care professional or personality disorder treatment center, who can provide you or your loved one with the resources need to overcome and mental health issue you may be faced with.

Statistics for Personality Disorders

Research in the field of personality disorders continues to be advanced.  Having statistics about personality disorders can be helpful in that they provide general information about risk factors, treatment, and recovery prognosis.  The following are important statistics about personality disorders that may be helpful in better understanding these mental health issues:

  • Personality disorders are diagnosed in 40-60% of psychiatric patients, making them the most frequent of all psychiatric diagnoses [1].
  • Personality disorder development is considered to be a childhood risk factor or early state of a later personality disorder in adulthood [2].
  • Childhood abuse and neglect is consistently associated with antecedent risks to the development of personality disorders of adulthood [3].
  • A screening survey across 13 countries by the World Health Organization using DSM-IV criteria, reported in 2009 a prevalence estimate of around 6% for personality disorders [4].
  • Patients who meet the DSM-IV-TR diagnostic criteria for one personality disorder are likely to meet the diagnostic criteria for another [5].

Causes of Personality Disorder

While the causes of personality disorder continue to be researched and understood, there are several plausible explanations to why an individual might develop a personality disorder.  Causes can vary among people, depending on their circumstances, history, family life, genetics, and personal life experiences.  Among research studies that have evaluated possible causes for personality disorders, child abuse and neglect were consistently associated with an antecedent risk to the development of personality disorder in adulthood.  Children who have experienced sexual, physical, or verbal abuse were found to have greater levels of risk for personality disorders.  Other possible causes of personality disorders include the following:

  • Family history of personality disorders
  • Possible infections or diseases states
  • Abnormal hormone levels
  • Traumatic brain injuries
  • Unpredictable or negligible neglect by caregivers in childhood
  • Genetic abnormalities impacting psychobiology (connection between brain and behavior)

As the causes of personality disorders continue to be understood, it is important to realize that a personality disorder may have developed as the result of several factors.  These causes can be addressed further with the assistance of a personality disorder treatment team in the recovery process.

Signs and Symptoms of Personality Disorder

Any man, woman, adolescent, or child who is suffering with a personality disorder may exhibit certain signs or symptoms that will correlate with their mental health issue.  If you or a loved one is struggling with a personality disorders, you may be able to better grasp what is at hand in order to more effectively proceed with your recovery journey.  While signs and symptoms may vary across the various personality disorders, there are several common ones, which are not limited to the following:

  • Frequent isolation, withdrawal
  • Unstable relationships
  • Poor impulse control
  • Frequent angry outbursts or mood swings
  • Co occurring alcohol or substance abuse.
  • A need for instant gratification
  • Appearing unemotional

If you or your loved one is being prevented from living a normal daily life due to a personality disorder, and if any of these character traits or symptoms have been revealed as a result of personality disorder, professional help will be needed. Consider obtaining help and professional support from a personality disorder treatment center, as these resources can help guide you through any issues associated with the development of this disorder.

Personality Disorder Effects

Though personality disorder may not seem to have any serious complications, these mental health issues can actually result in several negative consequences if left untreated.  While personality disorders are considered mental health issues, the implications of these diseases go beyond your mental health, as they can affect you socially and physically as well.   For these reasons, it is imperative to address personality disorders professionally for optimal healing and wellness.  By understanding how your life may be affected by a personality disorder, you may find the encouragement you need to find the help you deserve.  The following are some of the effects of personality disorder:

Physical Effects – Personality disorders can be impact one’s physical health, especially over long periods of time.  These are some physical effects that may be experienced:

  • Suicidal ideations
  • Insomnia
  • Weight loss or appetite changes
  • Abuse of drugs or alcohol
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Aggressive behavior that could lead to harmful outbursts

Psychological Effects – Personality disorders will have a tremendous impact on your mental health, especially as these mental health issues largely stem from a psychological reason.  Some of the psychological effects that may be experienced include:

  • Low self-esteem
  • Anti-social personality
  • Peculiar mannerisms and behaviors
  • Minimal awareness of self, others, or feelings
  • Emotional dysregulation
  • Increased feelings of depression or anxiety
  • Indentify changes
  • Lack of interpersonal skills

Finally, personality disorder can have negative consequences on your social life.  Social effects of personality disorder include:

  • Inability to maintain a career or job
  • Unable to maintain or initiate relationships
  • Decrease in performance at work or school
  • Withdrawal from loved ones or social functions
  • Decline in enjoyment of hobbies or activities
  • Avoidance of social situations, increased isolation

Personality Disorder Treatment

For individuals who struggle with a personality disorder, it may feel as though this mental health issue has become you, or that there is little that can be done to change this.  However, nothing could be further from the truth.  With the right tools and resources, you can work through any underlying issues that may have influenced the development of a personality disorder and reclaim your life.  While your personality disorder may have isolated you from loved ones, caused you to lose your job, or prevented you from pursuing something you once felt passionate about, it no longer needs to have control of your life.  By realizing that you are not alone and that resources are available to help you, you can take the first step in reaching out for care today.  A personality disorder treatment center can provide the tools and resources you need to recover and heal from any situation you may have endured.


[1]:  Saß, H. (2001). “Personality Disorders”, pp. 11301-11308 in Smelser, N. J. & Baltes, P. B. (eds.) International encyclopedia of the social & behavioral sciences, Amsterdam: Elsevier doi:10.1016/B0-08-043076-7/03763-3 ISBN 978-0-08-043076-8

[2]: Krueger, R.; Carlson, Scott R. (2001). “Personality disorders in children and adolescents”. Current Psychiatry Reports 3 (1): 46–51. doi:10.1007/s11920-001-0072-4. PMID 11177759.

[3]: Cohen, Patricia; Brown, Jocelyn and Smailes, Elizabeth (2001). “Child Abuse and Neglect and the Development of Mental Disorders in the General Population”. Development and Psychopathology 13 (4): 981–999. PMID 11771917.

[4]:  Huang, Y.; Kotov, R., de Girolamo, G., Preti, A., Angermeyer, M., Benjet, C., Demyttenaere, K., de Graaf, R., Gureje, O., Karam, A. N., Lee, S., Lepine, J. P., Matschinger, H., Posada-Villa, J., Suliman, S., Vilagut, G., Kessler, R. C. (30 June 2009). “DSM-IV personality disorders in the WHO World Mental Health Surveys”. The British Journal of Psychiatry 195 (1): 46–53. doi:10.1192/bjp.bp.108.058552. PMC 2705873. PMID 19567896.

[5]. Tasman, Allan et al (2008). Psychiatry. Third Edition. John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. ISBN 978-0470-06571-6.

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on April 15th, 2013
Published on, Substance Abuse Info