Personality disorder is a broad term used to describe a variety of psychological manifestations that affect thinking patterns and behavior toward others. Symptoms of a personality disorder can be mild or severe, and may appear in many different forms. Understanding some of the common symptoms of a personality disorder may help identify the condition and allow a person to seek out professional help.
Generally, symptoms of a personality disorder tend to affect both self-image and interpersonal relationships. Psychologists break the myriad varieties of personality disorder into three groups or “clusters,” known as A,B, and C. Patients with an A cluster disorder tend to have unusual or eccentric behavioral symptoms. B cluster patients are characterized by symptoms that appear as overly emotional or dramatic actions. Anxiety and fear are typical symptoms of a personality disorder in cluster C.
As there is such a wide range of possible disorders, identifying the symptoms may be somewhat difficult. Some people with personality disorders may have continual trouble with trusting others, to the point of extreme paranoia that can lead them to angry or violent outbursts with little or no provocation. Others may have a long history of dramatic personal relationships, self-destructive behavior, and codependency. Obsessive-compulsive behavior, traumatic fear of speaking in public, or severe lack of self-confidence can all be symptoms of a personality disorder.
Perception problems are common symptoms of a personality. How a person with a personality disorder views and interprets the world may not be realistic or logical. Some patients may have an exaggerated or greatly reduced sense of personal worth. Common perception issues also include an inability to pick up social cues or fit into group behavior.
When considering the wide range of symptoms, it may be too easy to conclude that just about everyone in the world is suffering from a personality disorder. Although all people have quirks and the occasional unusual behavioral pattern, what distinguishes a personality disorder from normal behavior are patterns and duration of symptoms and the negative effects on a person's life. Shyness, for instance, can stop many people from being assertive in some situations, but an extreme and pervasive shyness might stop a person with a personality disorder from leaving his or her house, going to school, or attending job interviews.
Symptoms of a personality disorder may not always be extreme, but even mild symptoms can be a sign of self-destructive thinking patterns. Without external symptoms, the condition is extremely difficult to diagnosis, and may take considerable therapy simply to understand. Treatment for personality disorder is often through long-term therapy, though medication may also be used. Many people with personality disorders can learn to manage symptoms and maintain a stable existence through recognizing and refuting ingrained self-destructive behavioral patterns, but this may be a life-long task.