What are personality disorders?
Personality is the synthesis of behaviours,
cognitions and emotions that makes each person unique. Despite this
uniqueness, both “healthy” personality and personality disorder have
defined patterns. Although our personalities allow others to predict and
anticipate our responses to situations, a person with a “healthy”
personality demonstrates a range of coping responses and styles when
placed in a stressful situation. A disordered personality does not have
this kind of adaptability and flexibility. The lack of adaptability and
the limited repertoire of coping responses can result in distress for
the person and for those around him or her.
Currently, there are 10 personality
disorders recognized in psychiatry. Borderline personality disorder and
antisocial personality disorder are the most frequently diagnosed
What are the signs & symptoms of personality disorders?
The 10 personality disorders are grouped into three
clusters according to shared characteristics. Each personality disorder
has its own signs and symptoms, but there are similarities within each
of the three clusters:
Cluster A: paranoid, schizoid and
schizotypal personality disorders. These are characterized by feeling
paranoid, distrustful and suspicious.
Cluster B: impulsive personality
disorders, such as borderline, narcissistic, histrionic and antisocial
personality disorders. These are characterized by having difficulty
controlling emotions, fears, desires and anger
Cluster C: anxious personality
disorders, such as obsessive-compulsive, dependent and avoidant
personality disorders. These are characterized by experiencing
compulsions and anxiety.
People with personality disorders are at increased
risk for self-harming behaviours and suicide. They may also have more
difficulty getting along with others than do people without personality
What are the causes & risk factors of personality disorders?
The causes of personality disorders are not known,
but research has begun to explore such potential factors as genetics,
childhood trauma, verbal abuse, high reactivity/oversensitivity and peer
What is the treatment for personality disorders?
Personality disorders are considered to be among
the most difficult mental health disorders to treat. However, some
therapies have proven to be quite effective. For example, dialectical
behaviour therapy (DBT) is the most researched psychotherapy for
borderline personality disorder. This form of cognitive behavioural
therapy (CBT) traces the person’s emotional upheaval to a combination of
temperament and an invalidating environment. DBT emphasizes validating
and accepting the person’s experience while focusing on change.
Researchers are hopeful that treatments for BPD
will lead to advances in treating the other nine personality disorders.
There is no evidence yet that CBT is an effective therapy for
personality disorders other than BPD.
Where can I find help, treatment and support for personality disorders?
Treatment at CAMH
Help for Families from CAMH
Ontario Mental Health Helpline (open 24/7 for treatment anywhere in Ontario)
Where can I find more information from CAMH related to personality disorders?
Borderline Personality Disorder: An Information Guide for Families
Supporting a Family Member with BDP
Self care for BDP
Mental Health 101: Personality Disorders Please Note: Your pop-up blocker must be turned off to view this tutorial
Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy: An Information Guide (PDF)