Common Personality Disorders

Medically Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, MS, DO on September 09, 2021
4 min read

A personality is everything that makes you, you. It includes everything about how you think, feel, and act. A personality disorder is when the way that you think, feel, and/or act causes you intense distress, deviates strongly from societal expectations, or causes you to have difficulty functioning normally.

A personality disorder is more than just having a bad day once in a while. It is a behavioral pattern that occurs over a long period of time. Symptoms of personality disorders usually start to show in your late teens or early 20s. 

According to research, about 10% of the population of the US has a personality disorder. There are 10 different personality disorders. They are:

According to a major study, the most prevalent personality disorder is obsessive-compulsive personality disorder. The second most common is narcissistic personality disorder, followed by borderline personality disorder.

Each personality disorder has different symptoms and treatment options. When reading about symptoms of personality disorders, keep in mind that many people have some of these behaviors some of the time or to a lesser degree. In order to be considered a personality disorder, it has to be a long-term behavioral pattern that affects your normal ability to function, your relationships, and inhibits your life.

Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD). This personality disorder is different from obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). The symptoms of this disorder include:

  • Rigidly following rules
  • A need for order that affects your ability to function normally
  • Unwillingness to delegate tasks to others
  • Micromanaging when giving tasks to others
  • Feeling like you know how things should be done, and everyone should always do them that way
  • Fixating on lists
  • Fixating on small details and missing the main point of the project
  • Being such a perfectionist that you are not able to finish tasks or projects
  • Being extremely frugal
  • Hoarding tendencies
  • Excessive dedication to work, so much that it affects your social life

Treatment options for this personality disorder include:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). Seeing a therapist, especially one who specializes in CBT, can help people with OCPD learn how to be more flexible, how to have fun and relax, and how to prioritize their relationships over working when appropriate.
  • Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs). Doctors often prescribe these medications for depression, but they may also help people with OCPD when used in conjunction with therapy.
  • Relaxation exercises. Many people with OCPD feel a strong sense of urgency and stress. Learning breathing exercises or meditation can help.

Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). People with this personality disorder generally have a grand sense of themselves and need a lot of admiration. They are also very sensitive and can't take criticism easily. Symptoms include:

  • An inflated sense of importance
  • Feeling entitled to people's time and attention
  • Requiring a lot of attention and admiration
  • Feeling superior to other people
  • Only wanting to associate with people who are equally "superior"
  • Monopolizing conversations
  • Looking down on people considered "inferior"
  • Expecting people to do whatever you ask them
  • Difficulty empathizing with other peoples' feelings
  • Difficulty recognizing other peoples' needs
  • Being easily jealous of other people
  • Bragging a lot
  • Insisting on only having the best material items
  • Being absorbed with fantasies about success
  • Feeling upset when you don't match your own expectations
  • Secretly feeling insecure
  • Feeling angry when you don't get the special treatment you feel you deserve
  • Difficulty accepting that other people may be more successful than you in some areas of life
  • Having difficulty with relationships and friendships

Treatment for NPD usually includes therapy. You can work with a therapist to have more meaningful relationships, understand your emotions better, and learn how to receive criticism. If your NPD also makes you feel anxious or depressed, your doctor may prescribe medication to treat those symptoms.

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). People with BPD feel their emotions very intensely. They may have trouble establishing a stable emotional baseline and exhibit impulsive behaviors. Symptoms include:

  • Extreme fear of abandonment
  • Black and white thinking about people (either, "I love them," or, "I hate them")
  • Unclear view of the self
  • Dangerous behaviors including reckless driving, unsafe sex, or substance abuse
  • Self-harm
  • Periods of intense emotion, including depression, irritability, anxiety, anger, shame, and guilt
  • Frequently feeling empty and dissociated
  • Difficulty with relationships
  • Inability to deal with stress

Treatments for BPD include:

  • Therapy. Using dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), CBT, or psychodynamic therapy can help people with BPD learn how to recognize and regulate their emotions.
  • Medication. Some people with BPD benefit from mood stabilizers and anti-psychotic medications.

If you believe you may have a personality disorder that is affecting your life, talk to your doctor or a mental health professional about a possible diagnosis and what treatment is best for you.