Personality Disorders and Their Features

Several controversies surround the theme of personality disorders and their classification as, in many cases, categories overlap, making it difficult to define the distinguished characteristics of each category. The issue results in difficulties in the diagnostic process and a low level of diagnostic results’ reliability. In general, there are ten types of personality disorders that can be merged into three groups depending on common behavioral characteristics.

The first group, or cluster, includes disorders commonly associated with eccentric or asocial behavior: paranoid, schizoid, and schizotypal personality disorders. A paranoid personality disorder is characterized by an individual’s high level of suspicion and distrust in other people’s motives. Common features of paranoid personality disorder include intolerance to criticism, a narrow circle of friends, a cold attitude that can be perceived as scheming, lack of sense of humor. On the other hand, a schizoid personality disorder results from an individual’s inability to participate in social relationships and express emotions. Therefore, common features of schizoid personality disorder include a lack of emotional expressions, social isolation, and indifference to social interests. Lastly, a schizotypal personality disorder is sourced in difficulties an individual has in forming close relationships with others. The common features include odd behaviors or unusual perceptions and mannerisms.

Next, the second group of personality disorders is characterized by high emotional activity in dramatic expressions and erratic behaviors. The most common trait of all types in this group is the inability to form reliable relationships with other people due to the unpredictive character of affected individuals’ actions. First, one of the most studied personality disorders, antisocial personality disorder, is characterized by the chronic violation of other people’s rights. An antisocial personality disorder diagnosis cannot be applied to underage individuals; instead, they are diagnosed with conduct disorder (Bridley & Daffin, 2021). Common features of APD occurring since the age of 15 are associated with psychopathy and sociopathy elements – failure to conform to social norms, impulsivity, lack of empathy, manipulativeness, aggressiveness, and irresponsibility. Furthermore, borderline personality disorder features in people’s inability to develop self-identity include intense reliance on interpersonal relationships, self-injury tendencies, splitting, mood shifts, and impulsivity. An individual’s excessive attention-craving characterizes a histrionic personality disorder, and common features include dramatic expressions of emotions, eye-catching appearance, and lack of self-esteem. Lastly, the narcissistic personality disorder features include elements of destructive narcissism with a combination of BPD and histrionic personality disorder features.

Lastly, the third group of personality disorders includes avoidant, dependent, and obsessive-compulsive personality disorders. People with avoidant personality disorder suffer from the inability to enter relationships due to fear of rejection. Common features of avoidant personality disorder include avoiding conversations, fear of public embarrassment, and adherence to a routine lifestyle. On the other hand, dependent personality disorder implies difficulties that an individual experiences in independent decision-making. Individuals with a dependent personality disorder often rely on their partner or spouse’s opinion in decision-making processes and tend to base their needs and priorities on subordination to other people. It is important to differentiate dependent personality disorder from cultural peculiarities of patriarchal cultures; therefore, this diagnosis is considered controversial and unfair. Lastly, an obsessive-compulsive personality disorder is related to excessive perfectionism and orderliness. The disorder is also associated with individuals experiencing difficulties expressing emotions and coping with feelings of uncertainty. Common features of obsessive-compulsive personality disorder include hyperfocus on trivial details, doing things in a specific order, postponing decisions, and avoiding leisure activities.


Bridley, A., & Daffin, L. W. Jr. (2021). Abnormal psychology (2nd ed.). Washington State University.

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