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What is a personality disorder?

What are the main types of personality disorder?

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There is a wide range of personality disorders. All of them involve a pervasivepattern of behaviour, which means that the characteristic behaviours and thoughts are evident in almost all aspects of a person’s life.

There are three clusters of personality disorders: odd or eccentric disorders; dramatic, emotional or erratic disorders; and anxious or fearful disorders. Specific disorders are as follows:

  • Paranoid personality disorder is a pervasive distrust and suspiciousness of others, such that their motives are interpreted as malevolent.

  • Schizoid personality disorder is a pervasive pattern of detachment from social relationships and a restricted range of expression of emotions in interpersonal settings.

  • Schizotypal personality disorder is a pervasive pattern of social and interpersonal deficits marked by acute discomfort with reduced capacity for close relationships. It is also characterised by distortions of thinking and perception and eccentric behaviour.

  • Antisocial personality disorder is a pervasive pattern of disregard for and violation of the rights of others.

  • Histrionic personality disorder is a pervasive pattern of excessive emotion and attention seeking.

  • Narcissistic personality disorder is a pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or actual behaviour), need for admiration, and lack of empathy.

  • Avoidant personality disorder is a pervasive pattern of social inhibition, feelings of inadequacy, and hypersensitivity to negative evaluation.

  • Dependent personality disorder is a pervasive and excessive need to be taken care of, which leads to submissive and clinging behaviour and fears of separation.

  • Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder is a pervasive pattern of preoccupation with orderliness, perfectionism, and mental and interpersonal control, at the expense of flexibility, openness, and efficiency.

  • Borderline personality disorder is a pervasive pattern of instability of interpersonal relationships, self-image, moods, and control over impulses.
    Understanding borderline personality disorder is particularly important because it can be misdiagnosed as another mental illness, particularly a mood disorder.
    People with borderline personality disorder are likely to have:
    • Wide mood swings.
    • Inappropriate anger or difficulty controlling anger.
    • Chronic feelings of emptiness.
    • Recurrent suicidal behaviour, gestures or threats, or self-harming behaviour.
    • Impulsive and self-destructive behaviour.
    • A pattern of unstable relationships.
    • Persistent unstable self-image or sense of self.
    • Fear of abandonment.
    • Periods of paranoia and loss of contact with reality.

Co-occurring mental health problems

Personality disorders often co-occur with other mental illnesses. For more information on mental illness, read the brochure What is mental illness? and the other brochures in this series.

Harmful alcohol and other drug use often co-occurs with personality disorders, particularly borderline personality disorder. This makes treatment more complex, and effectively managing alcohol and other drug use is important.

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