What are the different types of personality disorders?

Personality disorder can show itself in different ways. Psychiatrists tend to use an American system of diagnosis which identifies 10 different types of personality disorders. These types can be grouped into three categories:


Emotional and Impulsive


  • Paranoid
  • Schizoid
  • Schizotypal
  • Antisocial
  • Borderline
  • Histrionic
  • Narcissistic
  • Avoidant
  • Dependent
  • Obsessive-compulsive

One person may meet the criteria for several different types of personality disorder, while a wide range of people may fit the criteria for the same disorder, despite having very different personalities.

Paranoid personality disorder

You are likely to:

  • Find it very difficult to trust other people, believing they will use you, or take advantage of you
  • Find it hard to confide in people, even your friends
  • Watch others closely, looking for signs of betrayal or hostility
  • Suspect that your partner is being unfaithful, with no evidence
  • Read threats and danger – which others do not see – into everyday situations

Schizoid personality disorder

You are likely to:

  • Be uninterested in forming close relationships with other people including your family
  • Feel that relationships interfere with your freedom and tend to cause problems
  • Prefer to be alone with your own thoughts
  • Choose to live your life without interference from others
  • Get little pleasure from life
  • Have little interest in sex or intimacy
  • Be emotionally cold towards others

Schizotypal personality disorder

You are likely to:

  • Find making close relationships extremely difficult
  • Think and express yourself in ways that others find ‘odd’, using unusual words or phrases
  • Behave in ways that others find eccentric
  • Believe that you can read minds or that you have special powers, such as a ‘sixth sense’
  • Feel anxious and tense with others who do not share these beliefs
  • Feel very anxious and paranoid in social situations

Antisocial personality disorder (ASPD)

You are likely to:

  • Act impulsively and recklessly, often without considering the consequences for yourself or for other people
  • Behave dangerously and sometimes illegally
  • Behave in ways that are unpleasant for others
  • Do things – even though they may hurt people – to get what you want, putting your needs above theirs
  • Feel no sense of guilt if you have mistreated others
  • Be irritable and aggressive and get into fights easily
  • Be very easily bored, and you may find it difficult to hold down a job for long
  • Believe that only the strongest survive and that you must do whatever it takes to lead a successful life, because if you do not grab opportunities, others will
  • Have a criminal record
  • Have had a diagnosis of conduct disorder before the age of 15

Borderline personality disorder (BPD)

You are likely to:

  • Feel that you do not have a strong sense of who you really are, and others may describe you as very changeable
  • Suffer from mood swings, switching from one intense emotion to another very quickly, often with angry outbursts
  • Have brief psychotic episodes – hearing voices or seeing things that others do not
  • Do things on impulse which you later regret
  • Have episodes of harming yourself and having thoughts about taking your own life
  • Have a history of stormy or broken relationships
  • Have a tendency to cling on to very damaging relationships, because you are terrified of being alone

The term ‘borderline’ is difficult to make sense of, and some people prefer the term ‘emotionally unstable personality disorder’ or ‘emotional instability disorder’, which is sometimes used in place of ‘borderline personality disorder’.

Histrionic personality disorder

You are likely to:

  • Feel very uncomfortable if you are not the centre of attention
  • Feel much more at ease as the ‘life and soul of the party’
  • Feel that you have to entertain people
  • Flirt or behave provocatively to ensure that you remain the centre of attention
  • Get a reputation for being dramatic and overemotional
  • Feel dependent on the approval of others
  • Be easily influenced by others

Narcissistic personality disorder

You are likely to:

  • Believe that there are special reasons that make you different, better or more deserving than others
  • Have fragile self-esteem, so that you rely on others to recognise your worth and your needs
  • Feel upset if others ignore you and do not give you what you feel you deserve
  • Resent other people’s successes
  • Put your own needs above other people’s, and demand that they do too
  • Be seen as selfish and ‘full of yourself’
  • Take advantage of other people

Avoidant (or anxious) personality disorder

You are likely to:

  • Avoid work or social activities that mean you must be with others
  • Expect disapproval and criticism and be very sensitive to it
  • Worry constantly about being ‘found out’ and rejected
  • Worry about being ridiculed or shamed by others
  • Avoid relationships, friendships and intimacy because you fear rejection
  • Feel lonely and isolated, and inferior to others
  • Be reluctant to try new activities in case you embarrass yourself

Dependent personality disorder

You are likely to:

  • Feel needy, weak and unable to make decisions or function properly without help or support
  • Allow others to assume responsibility for many areas of your life
  • Agree to things that you feel are wrong, or that you dislike, to avoid being alone or losing someone’s support
  • Be afraid of being left to fend for yourself
  • Have low self-confidence
  • See other people as being much more capable than you are
  • Be seen by others as highly submissive and passive

Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD)

You are likely to:

  • Need to keep everything in order and under control
  • Set unrealistically high standards for yourself and others
  • Think yours is the best way of making things happen
  • Worry when you or others might make mistakes
  • Expect catastrophes if things are not perfect
  • Be reluctant to spend money on yourself or others
  • Have a tendency to hang on to items with no obvious value

OCPD is separate from obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), which describes a form of behaviour rather than a type of personality.

Next page