Having talked to people from various backgrounds, I realize how many different definitions/ideas/images exist associated with the notion of a personality disorder. Therefore, it does not surprise me that it is often considered as one of the most controversial of all psychiatric diagnoses. There are no accurate figures, but an estimated 10% of the general population have some kind of personality disorder. Experts describe personality disorders as being ‘fuzzy at the edges’. One person may qualify for several different disorders, while a wide range of people may fit different criteria for the same disorder, despite having very different personalities.
Placing people into neat categories is almost impossible, because each individual is unique and personality is very complex. It’s a mistake to assume that giving people a diagnostic label means knowing more about them, and it’s too easy to use these terms in a judgemental way. Many of these diagnostic labels have been used in a way that stigmatises people.
Research from the Office of National Statistics states that as many as 5.4% of men have a personality disorder, and for women, it is 3.4%. Personality disorders are found more in younger age groups (25-44 year age group) and are equally common between males and females. In 1998, research carried out by the Office of National Statistics found that numbers of people with personality disorders are highest in institutional settings like prison, which has a population where 64% of male sentenced prisoners and 50% of female prisoners have been found to be suffering from a personality disorder.
Personality disorders typically start in adolescence and continue into adulthood. They may be mild, moderate or severe, and people may have periods of 'remission' where they can function well. They are caused by a combination of genetic reasons and experiences of distress or fear during childhood, such as neglect or abuse and can be broadly grouped into one of three clusters – A, B or C. NHS provides the following definitions of the groups.
Cluster A personality disorder
An individual regards other people as alien and usually shows patterns of behaviour that most people would regard as odd and eccentric. Others may describe them as living in a fantasy world of their own. An extreme example is paranoid personality disorder, where the person is extremely distrustful and suspicious.
Cluster B personality disorders
A person with a cluster B personality disorder struggles to regulate their feelings and often swings between positive and negative views of others. This can lead to patterns of behaviour that others describe as dramatic, unpredictable and disturbing. An example is borderline personality disorder, where the person is emotionally unstable, has impulses to self-harm and has very intense and unstable relationships with others.
Cluster C personality disorders
A person with a cluster C personality disorder struggles with persistent and overwhelming feelings of anxiety and fear. They tend to show patterns of behaviour that most people would regard as antisocial and withdrawn. An example is avoidant personality disorder, where the person appears painfully shy, is socially inhibited, feels inadequate and is extremely sensitive to rejection. The person may want to be close to others, but lacks the confidence to form a close relationship.
To know more about personality types follow the link to my related website.