What is a personality disorder?

What is a personality disorder?

Page last updated: May 2007

Everyone has personality traits that characterise them. These are the usual ways that a person thinks and behaves, which make each of us unique.

Personality traits become a personality disorder when the pattern of thinking and behaviour is extreme, inflexible and maladaptive. They may cause major disruption to a person’s life and are usually associated with significant distress to the self or others.

Personality disorders begin in childhood and persist throughout adulthood.

The prevalence of personality disorders is not firmly established and varies for the different disorders. Borderline personality disorder is experienced by about one in 100 people.

While personality can be difficult to change, with early and appropriate treatment and support, people with personality disorders can live full and productive lives.