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Personality disorders

Definition

Personality disorders are a group of psychiatric conditions in which chronic behavior patterns cause serious problems with relationships and work.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

The exact cause of personality disorders is unknown. However, many genetic and environmental factors are thought to play a role.

Mental health professionals categorize these disorders into the following types:

Symptoms

Symptoms vary widely depending on the specific type of personality disorder.

People with personality disorders have difficulty dealing with everyday stresses and problems, and they often have stormy relationships with others. These conditions vary from mild to severe.

Signs and tests

Personality disorders are diagnosed based on a psychological evaluation and the history and severity of the symptoms.

Treatment

People with these disorders usually do not seek treatment on their own. They tend to seek help once their behavior has caused severe problems in their relationships or jobs, or when they are diagnosed with another psychiatric problem, such as a mood or substance abuse disorder.

Although personality disorders are difficult to treat, there is increasing evidence that both medications and some forms of talk therapy can help many people.

Expectations (prognosis)

The outlook varies. Some personality disorders diminish during middle age without any treatment, while others persist throughout life despite treatment.

Complications

  • Problems with interpersonal relationships
  • Problems with career
  • Other psychiatric disorders

Calling your health care provider

Call for an appointment with your health care provider or mental health professional if you or someone close to you has symptoms of a personality disorder.

References

Moore DP, Jefferson JW, eds. Handbook of Medical Psychiatry. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2004: chaps 134-143.


Review Date: 10/17/2008
Reviewed By: Linda Vorvick, MD, Seattle Site Coordinator, Lecturer, Pathophysiology, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington School of Medicine; and Timothy A. Rogge, MD, private practice in psychiatry, Kirkland, Washington. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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