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A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia [Internet]. Atlanta (GA): A.D.A.M.; 2013.

A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia.

Personality disorders

Last reviewed: November 10, 2012.

Personality disorders are a group of mental health conditions in which a person has a long-term pattern of behaviors, emotions, and thoughts that is very different from his or her culture's expectations. These behaviors interfere with the person's ability to function in relationships, work, or other settings.

Symptoms

Symptoms vary widely depending on the type of personality disorder.

In general, personality disorders involve feelings, thoughts, and behaviors that do not adapt to a wide range of settings.

These patterns usually begin in adolescence and may lead to problems in social and work situations.

The severity of these conditions ranges from mild to severe.

Signs and tests

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

Treatment

At first, 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 work. They may also seek help when they are struggling with another mental health problem, such as a mood or substance abuse disorder.

Although personality disorders take time to treat, certain forms of talk therapy are helpful. In some cases, medications are a useful addition.

Expectations (prognosis)

Outlook varies. Some personality disorders improve greatly during middle age without any treatment. Others only improve slowly even with treatment.

Complications

  • Problems with relationships
  • Problems with school or work
  • Other mental health disorders

Calling your health care provider

See your health care provider or mental health professional if you or someone you know has symptoms of a personality disorder.

References

  1. Blais MA, Smallwood P, Groves JE, Rivas-Vazquez RA. Personality and personality disorders. In: Stern TA, Rosenbaum JF, Biederman J, Rauch SL, eds. Massachusetts General Hospital Comprehensive Clinical Psychiatry. 1st ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Mosby; 2008:chap 39.

Review Date: 11/10/2012.

Reviewed by: David B. Merrill, MD, Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, Department of Psychiatry, Columbia University Medical Center, New York, NY. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, David R. Eltz, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.

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Copyright © 2013, A.D.A.M., Inc.

A.D.A.M., Inc. is accredited by URAC, also known as the American Accreditation HealthCare Commission (www.urac.org). URAC's accreditation program is an independent audit to verify that A.D.A.M. follows rigorous standards of quality and accountability. A.D.A.M. is among the first to achieve this important distinction for online health information and services. Learn more about A.D.A.M.'s editorial policy, editorial process and privacy policy. A.D.A.M. is also a founding member of Hi-Ethics and subscribes to the principles of the Health on the Net Foundation (www.hon.ch).

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only — they do not constitute endorsementscof those other sites. © 1997–2011 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

Copyright © 2013, A.D.A.M., Inc.

What works?

  • Community mental health teams for people with severe mental illnesses and disordered personalityCommunity mental health teams for people with severe mental illnesses and disordered personality
    Since the 1950s there has been a trend to close institutions of care for people who are mentally unwell. In addition, government policy has sought to reduce the number of hospital beds available in favour of care being provided in the community to enable people to live more independent lives. The aim of Community Mental Health Teams (CMHTs) is to bring a specialist care package to people in the community. We reviewed the available evidence on CMHTs compared with standard non‐team community care. We found only three trials which indicated some benefit in terms of acceptability of treatment, but overall the evidence for CMHTs is inadequate and further trials are needed to determine its effectiveness.
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