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Overview of personality disorders

Andrew Skodol, MD
Section Editor
Murray B Stein, MD, MPH
Deputy Editor
Richard Hermann, MD


Personality consists of enduring patterns of perceiving, relating to, and thinking about the environment and oneself that are exhibited across numerous social and personal contexts. A personality disorder is diagnosed when personality traits are so inflexible and maladaptive across a wide range of situations that they cause significant distress and impairment of social, occupational, and role functioning. The thinking, displays of emotion, impulsivity, and interpersonal behavior of the individual must deviate markedly from the expectations of the individual's culture in order to qualify as a personality disorder.

Patients with personality disorders can significantly strain the doctor-patient relationship. Clinicians frequently lack training in how to recognize and manage personality disorders.

This topic provides an overview of the personality disorders. Borderline, antisocial, narcissistic, schizotypal personality disorders are reviewed in detail separately. Challenges to maintaining a therapeutic alliance in the treatment of patients with personality disorders and pathological personality traits are also discussed separately. (See "Borderline personality disorder: Epidemiology, clinical features, course, assessment, and diagnosis" and "Treatment of borderline personality disorder" and "Narcissistic personality disorder: Epidemiology, pathogenesis, clinical manifestations, course, assessment, and diagnosis" and "Treatment of narcissistic personality disorder" and "Antisocial personality disorder: Epidemiology, clinical manifestations, course and diagnosis" and "Treatment of antisocial personality disorder" and "Schizotypal personality disorder: Epidemiology, pathogenesis, clinical manifestations, course, and diagnosis" and "Establishing and maintaining a therapeutic relationship in psychiatric practice" and "Approaches to the therapeutic relationship in patients with personality disorders".)


DSM-5 includes 10 personality disorders grouped into three clusters based upon descriptive similarities [1]:

Cluster A characteristics – Individuals may appear odd and eccentric

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Literature review current through: Dec 2017. | This topic last updated: Dec 01, 2017.
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