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Personality Disorder

Personality is a way of describing how people think, feel and behave, such as their emotional response to an upsetting situation. Personality disorders are often diagnosed when particular elements of a person's behaviours, reactions and perceptions of the world are extreme and cause distress to the person experiencing them, as well as to other people in their lives.

Signs and Symptoms

There are many types of personality disorders, such as paranoid, schizoid, antisocial and narcissistic. General symptoms include:

  • Difficulty with close or intimate relationships
  • Frequent mood swings
  • Impulsiveness, irritability, fearfulness
  • Demanding, manipulative
  • Need for instant gratification
  • Hostile or angry outbursts
  • Alcohol or substance abuse
  • Sexual problems
  • Suicidal thoughts or attempts

Causes / Physiology

Research suggests personality disorders are caused by a combination of genetic and environmental influences, such as the surroundings one grew up in, events that occurred and relationships with family members and others. Some may have a genetic vulnerability to developing a personality disorder and your life situation may trigger the actual development of a personality disorder.



Although personality disorders are difficult to treat, evidence suggests that a number of treatments are helpful in reducing distress and symptoms, and improving quality of life. Intensive individual or group psychotherapy, combined with antidepressants, can be quite effective for some. During psychotherapy individuals learn about their condition and mood, feelings, thoughts and behaviour to learn healthy ways to manage their symptoms.


Related Links

HeretoHelp (a project of the BC Partners for Mental Health and Addictions Information): www.heretohelp.bc.ca

Mayo Clinic: www.mayoclinic.com


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