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Personality Disorder Causes

By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD

The term "personality disorder" is relatively new in the field of mental health. The traits seen with these disorders used to be considered part of a person's natural personality and therefore untreatable. The exact causes of personality disorders are unclear but are likely to be a combination of factors that may vary between individuals.

Some of the possible causes of personality disorders include:

  • Unpleasant childhood experiences - There may be a history of physical or sexual abuse or neglect in early years. Being abused as a child or living in an environment that does not foster the growth of social skills can be detrimental to a child's personality and may give rise to character traits that cause personality disorders.
  • Drugs or alcohol abuse may be found among individuals with personality disorders, who may try to use the vices as a means of helping them cope with their perceived inadequacies or differences. This can create a vicious cycle, as drug or alcohol use in itself can cause problems that are difficult to cope with.
  • Avoidant (anxious) personality disorder - This personality disorder manifests with low self-esteem, anxiety, fear of being judged negatively by others and lack of social skills. Individuals with this condition may experience relationship and work-related problems.
  • Borderline personality disorder - This is one of the most common types of personality disorder and describes a state between psychosis and neurosis. People with this condition have poor self image, struggle with relationships and may have extreme mood swings and outbursts.
  • Antisocial personality disorder - Antisocial personality disorder refers to a lack of regard for fellow human beings and a lack of remorse for actions that may hurt other people's feelings. These individuals commonly have a criminal record.
  • Dependent personality disorder - This manifests as a lack of self confidence that leads individuals to put the needs of others before their own in order to please people.
  • Narcissistic personality disorder - This describes a severe overrating of one's own importance, leading to grandiose plans and ambitions and usually a self-centredness and intolerance of others.
  • Histronic personality disorder - This disorder typically manifests with hysterical outbursts and the need to be the centre of attention.
  • Paranoid personality disorder - People with this condition feel highly suspicious of and bitter towards others, making it difficult for them to form lasting relationships.
  • Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder - This condition causes individuals to make exaggerated attempts to be perfect and do things their way only, while overruling others.
  • Schizoid personality disorder - Affected people have difficulty expressing their emotions, remaining aloof or withdrawn and failing to form long lasting relationships.
  • Schizotypal personality disorder - This condition is characterized by paranoia and thought patterns that are mostly suspicious and eccentric.

Reviewed by , BSc

Further Reading

Last Updated: Oct 14, 2013

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