Figuring out that you have a personality disorder can feel a bit like deciphering one of those Magic Eye pictures. There's the "a ha!" moment when you can see your life clearly, and suddenly all your eccentricities and difficulties make a helluva lot of sense. But then there's figuring out signs someone has a personality disorder, as in a friend, family member, or partner. It's not as gratifying, but it sure can come in handy when navigating your relationships.
That's because helping someone with a personality disorder can be pretty challenging. "A personality disorder is a deeply ingrained and maladaptive pattern of behavior of a specified kind ... causing long-term difficulties in personal relationships or in functioning in society," says psychologist Nicole Martinez, Psy.D., LCPC, in an email to Bustle. "They impact all areas of life, relationship, work, socialization, and legal issues."
Of course there are many different types of personality disorders, and each one has different symptoms. As Martinez says, "There are ones that are narcissistic in nature, ones that are dependent in nature. Other's are erratic with self-destructive behaviors, while others cause people to lash out at others." In fact, there are ten total personality disorders, which fall under three clusters: odd or eccentric disorders; dramatic, emotional or erratic disorders; and anxious or fearful disorders, according to Psychology Today.
One common link between all the types is that a personality disorder can be incredibly difficult to treat, Martinez says. All the more reason to be super understanding when it comes to dealing with a friend, family member, or partner who is struggling with the disorder. With that in mind, here are a few signs someone you know may have a personality disorder, as well as which disorder it might be.
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1. They Are Incredibly Paranoid All The Time
Everyone is distrustful and suspicious from time to time, but the feeling can get a bit out of hand, as is the case with a paranoid personality disorder. "Paranoid personality disorder is characterized by a pervasive distrust of others, including ... friends, family, and [partners]," said Neel Burton, M.D., on Psychology Today. "As a result, the person is guarded and suspicious, and constantly on the lookout for clues or suggestions to validate his fears. He also has a strong sense of personal rights: he is overly sensitive to setbacks and rebuffs, easily feels shame and humiliation, and persistently bears grudges."
2. They Prefer To Be Alone Beyond A Healthy Degree
There's a normal, healthy desire to be alone. And then there's a level of social detachment that may signal a personality disorder, as is the case with schizoid personality disorder. According to the Mayo Clinic, schizoid personality disorder is marked by a lack of interest in social or personal relationships. A person with the disorder may prefer to be alone, they may limit their range of emotional expression, and they may even lack the ability to take pleasure in most activities. In short, they come off as cold and indifferent to others.
3. They Have Extreme Beliefs, Obsessions, Or Magical Thinking
Do you know someone who is way too into superstitious? As in, they won't even talk about Friday the 13th because of its negative connotations? If that sounds familiar, it could just be they have schizotypal personality disorder. As Burton said, "Schizotypal PD is characterized by oddities of appearance, behavior, and speech, unusual perceptual experiences, and anomalies of thinking similar to those seen in schizophrenia. These latter can include odd beliefs, magical thinking ... suspiciousness, and obsessive ruminations. People with schizotypal PD often fear social interaction and think of others as harmful."
4. They Don't Respect The Rights Of Others
Let's say you have a family member who has a strong disregard for your feelings. As in, they don't care at all when it comes to putting you down, lying to your face, or putting you in danger. It could be their antisocial personality disorder on full display. According to an article in Psychology Today, "Antisocial personality disorder is characterized by a pattern of disregard for and violation of the rights of others ... People with this illness may seem charming, but they are likely to be irritable and aggressive as well as irresponsible." Clearly, the disorder can be really difficult for all involved.
5. They Always Complain About Feeling Empty
Borderline personality disorder is pretty well-known, as far as the disorders go. A person with the disorder may complain about lacking a "sense of self," and as a result may have feelings of emptiness or fear of abandonment, according to Burton. People with BPD also tend to show signs of unstable relationships, emotional instability, outbursts of anger and violence, and impulsive behavior. They also may threaten or attempt suicide or self-harm, so it's incredibly important to seek help for them immediately when or if that happens.
6. They Have To Be The Center Of Attention
Everyone has that one friend who has to be in the center of attention, and it can be kind of charming. But if his or her attention-seeking behavior constantly pours over into dramatics, it could be a sign of histrionic personality disorder, according to the Mayo Clinic. Other signs include being excessively emotional, dramatic, or sexually provocative to gain attention; speaking dramatically with strong opinions, but few facts to back them up; being easily influenced by others; shallow, rapidly changing emotions; thinking friends are closer to them than they really are; and excessive concern with physical appearance. It can be exhausting, but remember it's not their fault.
7. They Are Obsessed With Themselves
In the same vein as above is narcissistic personality disorder. This disorder would describe that friend of yours who has a long-standing pattern of grandiosity, an overwhelming need for admiration, and a complete lack of empathy toward others, according to Steve Bressert, Ph.D., on PsychCentral.com. This person may also feel like they are the single most important person in everyone's lives.
8. They Really Struggle With Rejection
You probably don't hang out with someone who really struggles with rejection. Because if they do, it may be they have avoidant personality disorder, and therefore struggle with maintaining relationships. "Avoidant personality disorder is characterized by feelings of extreme social inhibition, inadequacy, and sensitivity to negative criticism and rejection ... Avoidant personality disorder causes significant problems that affect the ability to interact with others and maintain relationships in day-to-day life," noted an article on Webmd.com. So if you have a long-lost friend, or super shy uncle, this could be what's going on.
9. They Are Very Rigid And Detail-Oriented
You might think it's cute that your roommate is orderly to a fault, but if he or she gets overly upset when something is out of order, it could be a sign of obsessive-compulsive personality disorder. According to the Mayo Clinic, it's defined by a preoccupation with details, orderliness, and rules. Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder symptoms also include extreme perfectionism, resulting in dysfunction and distress; a desire to control people; a neglect of friends and enjoyable activities because of a commitment to work or a project; and inflexibility about mortality, ethics, or values. Definitely not a charming or desirable problem to deal with.
10. They Are Super Clingy
Again, this one may seem sweet to being with. But keep an eye on people who are overly clingy, to the point of desperation, as it could be dependent personality disorder (DPD). As noted in an article on WebMD, "People with DPD become emotionally dependent on other people and spend great effort trying to please others." They may also have difficulty making decisions, they may avoid adult responsibilities, be overly sensitive to criticism, fear abandonment, and hate spending time alone. It's truly a difficult feeling to live with.
11. They Seem To Be Upset Or Overwhelmed
Remember that everyone is eccentric, depressed, paranoid, and obsessive from time to time. The thing to keep in mind is that a true personality disorder will cause incredible distress. It can lead to work and relationship difficulties, as well as problems functioning in society. "It impacts all areas of their lives, but typically can not be formally diagnosed until [age] 18, although there are early indicators," Martinez says.
Be careful not to diagnose yourself or others. If you think someone you know has a personality disorder, see if they are interested in getting help. Personality disorders may be difficult to treat, but that doesn't mean it's a hopeless cause. A therapist can help manage symptoms, and offer up coping mechanisms, so you and your loved ones can have a healthier, happier relationship.
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