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Personality Disorder Essay Questions

Michael W. Adamowicz, LICSW Dec 6, 2013 Updated Nov 2, 2015

Personality Disorder Definition

Personality disorders are a diagnostic category of psychiatric disorders that affect approximately 10% of the population. This group of disorders is characterized by problematic thinking patterns; problems with emotional regulation; and difficulty achieving a balance between spontaneity and impulse control.

Research indicates that personality disorders are correlated with substance use disorders. Associations have been found between borderline personality disorder, alcohol abuse and abuse of sedatives/benzodiazepines. Antisocial personality disorder has also been frequently associated with alcohol abuse and misuse. Read about substance abuse treatment to know your options.

Since everyone has a personality, but not everyone has a personality disorder, these disorders are considered a variant form of normal, healthy personality.

  • However, the most significant and defining feature of personality disorders is the negative effect these disorders have on interpersonal relationships.
  • People with personality disorders tend to respond to differing situations and demands with a characteristically rigid constellation of thoughts, feelings, and behavior.
  • This inflexibility and difficulty in forming nuanced responses represents the primary difference between healthy and disordered personalities.


The diagnosis of personality disorders is often very complex as these disorders frequently co-occur with each other and with other psychiatric categories of disorders. The current diagnostic system of the DSM-5 (APA, 2013) relies upon a categorical approach that outlines the following criteria to meet a personality disorder diagnosis:

  • Significant impairments in interpersonal functioning and self-identity that are relatively consistent across time and situations.
  • The impairments have no discernable cause outside of the individual's personality trait domains, like psychological or head trauma, sociological/cultural environment and are not due to the effects of using a substance.

The Dark Side of Personality

Among non-psychologists, it is common to confuse personality disorders with psychological disorders generally (i.e., psychopathology), when in fact personality disorders are only one variety of psychopathology. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV, American Psychiatric Association, 1994) distinguishes disorders like depression and schizophrenia (Axis I disorders) from personality disorders (Axis II disorders). Although there is a great deal of overlap among these different kinds of disorders (e.g., borderline personality disorder often occurs with depression, and personality disorders often occur together), it is probably worthwhile at least to be aware of the conceptual distinction.

Personality disorders, by definition, are disorders of personality. Consequently, they are typified by early onset and pervasive effects. Nevertheless, there are treatments that can help those with personality disorders learn to cope with their distinctive problems in living.

The following acronyms for the personality disoders (Pinkofsky, 1997) should make them understandable and memorable. The group headings are based respectively on the DSM-IV, the structural analysis of social behavior (SASB; Benjamin, 1996), and the psychoticism - extraversion - neuroticism (PEN) model (Eysenck, 1987). It is because of their relation to theories that have inspired scientific research that personality disorders are included herein.