There are so many different types of personality disorders. (Ten, to be exact.) And each one of them comes with its own set of unique symptoms, as well as ways it can affect daily life. They're all very different, and yet most personality disorders have a few things in common, such as black and white thinking, a trail of toxic relationships, and an unstable sense of self. All of these things can be signs of a personality disorder.
But with a high-functioning personality disorder, you can still get up and go about your day, and maintain a relatively predictable life. You aren't too majorly impacted by your symptoms, and yet you can tell something's not quite right. You might, for example, have relationship problems you can't readily explain, or problems at work, or an inability to handle stress. And added up, that may all point to a personality disorder.
"A personality disorder is categorized by having an unhealthy or irregular thought process, and possessing rigid ways of behaving and functioning in society," Caleb Backe, a health and wellness expert at Maple Holistics, tells Bustle. "Depending on the disorder, the [person] could find it difficult to understand and interact with certain people or social situations. Some [people] find they can manage in the day-to-day world, albeit somewhat awkwardly. Others [may be] too afraid to face their coworkers, friends, family, and strangers on the street. It is a wide spectrum."
Wherever you might fall on that spectrum, it is possible to improve symptoms and have an easier time in life, usually with the help of therapy or medication. Here are a few symptoms that may not seem too intense, but may still be a sign of a personality disorder — especially if they're rigid, unchanging, and long-standing.
1. You Just Don't Feel Like Yourself
People with personality disorders often complain about feeling empty, or like they don't know who they are or what they want out of life. As clinical psychologist Dana Harron, PsyD tells Bustle, this is often referred to as an instability of self. "You don't feel like the same person from day to day," she says. "[Sufferers] might feel as though it is difficult for them to have a clear sense of who they are."
Take borderline personality disorder, for instance. One of the top symptoms for this is a chronic feeling of boredom or emptiness, as well as a distorted self image. "If you don't feel like the same person from day to day because your mood swings so wildly, this can be an indication of personality issues (among other things)," Harron says.
2. You Keep Having Relationship Problems
When you have a personality disorder, it's common for "your relationships [to] go from really great to totally terrible on a dime," Harron says. This is due to the fact personality disorder symptoms can make it difficult to relate to others, so sufferers might jump to conclusions, or assume the worst — all things that can send relationships down an unhealthy road.
3. You Often Feel Frustrated With Others
"People with personality disorders will typically experience a high level of frustration with others," therapist Melinda Haynes, MA, LMFT tells Bustle. "They can’t understand why people so frequently let them down, piss them off, or constantly do stupid things to annoy them."
If you're constantly frustrated by others, this may be one reason why. When you have a personality disorder, it's' not always easy to see life from another person's perspective, Haynes says. "Because of this, [you might] take things personally and get highly defensive over small infractions — whether real or perceived."
4. You Experience Black & White Thinking
Quite a few personality disorders result in what's known as "black and white" thinking, where things either feel all good or all bad. As Harron says, "You tend to see yourself as all good or all bad, all of the time." And you might see other people and situations that way, as well. There's often no healthy gray area or middle ground when it comes to personality disorders, which is one reason why they can be so exhausting.
5. You Keep Having "Bad Luck"
Until you seek treatment, a personality disorder can really start to sabotage your life. Eventually, you might notice that you keep having bad luck, or "repetitive negative outcomes," Harron says, no matter how hard you try to make things go your way.
Think along the lines of multiple lost jobs, relationships never working out, etc. This is often due to the energy and attitude associated with personality disorders — and not actual bad luck. The good news is that, once you're aware of it, you can start making positive changes, and seeking the help you need.
6. You've Been Told You're Controlling
Has anyone — a friend, coworker, partner, etc. — ever told you you're controlling? If it's been an ongoing thing in your life, there's a chance it could be due to a personality disorder.
As Haynes says, "Some people suffering with a personality disorder will tend to be very controlling. Their family members or significant others may refer to them as 'Control Freaks.'" Which can, again, lead to the relationship problems mentioned above.
Never fear, though, because this is yet another symptom that can be improved by going to therapy. The desire to control often comes from a place of fear or pain, which are both very common for people with personality disorders. Once you work on those feelings, and learn coping skills, it becomes easier to let go.
7. Friendships Come And Go
Someone with a personality disorder may find it's easy to make friends, but difficult to hold onto them. "Due to an inability to recognize [their] own flaws, someone with a personality disorder quickly feels victimized," Dr. Michele Leno, a Michigan-based licensed psychologist and founder of DML Psychological Services, PLLC, tells Bustle. "Meeting their needs is essential or else the relationship will dissolve or suffer greatly."
Which is, of course,a tough thing for others to do 24/7. That's why it's so important for people with personality disorders to seek treatment, as they often don't realize they're pushing others away.
8. Your Relationships All Look The Same
"If you find that you are only able to have certain kinds of relationships or that you have trouble having reciprocal relationships (where each member of the relationship puts in, on average, an equal amount of time and energy) it is possible that problematic personality traits play a role," Harron says. This is something that can be improved by going to therapy, so don't let it get you down.
9. You Often Feel Confused
If you feel like life spins out of your control on the regular, it might be due to personality disorder symptoms. "People with personality disorders often have situations go awry without knowing why, such as losing jobs or relationships frequently," Harron says. The good news, though, is that all of these symptoms are treatable. "It is very changeable with willingness and treatment," she says.
But that word — willingness — is key. The thing with personality disorders is that they can be difficult to spot, and those suffering with them may be quick to deny they have a problem. "Instead, they may imagine that the people around them are the ones who are mentally ill," Laurie Endicott Thomas, MA, ELS tells Bustle.
This is why someone with a personality disorder might not be quick to seek treatment. And many never seek treatment at all. But once they do — or someone they know suggests they do — therapy and medication can be super helpful, when it comes to managing symptoms.