Dr Dulcy Rakumakoe
4 minute read
5 Aug 2019
10:54 am

10 personality disorders you need to know about

Dr Dulcy Rakumakoe

People with histrionic personality disorder feel very uncomfortable if they are not the centre of attention and are easily influenced by others.

Picture: iStock

Psychiatrists have identified 10 different personality disorders which are grouped into three categories.

For each type, a diagnosis will not be made if you have only one or two of the characteristics. They may also be difficult to differentiate from other mental illnesses, like anxiety, depression and schizophrenia.


There’s no clear reason. Most researchers think a complex mix of factors is involved, such as the environment we grow up in; early childhood and teenage experiences; and genetic factors.

Personality disorders


  • Find it hard to confide in people.
  • Find it difficult to trust people not to use or take advantage of you.
  • Watch others closely, looking for signs of betrayal or hostility.
  • Read threats and danger into everyday situations.

Picture: iStock


  • Be uninterested in forming close relationships.
  • Feel relationships interfere with your freedom and cause problems.
  • Prefer to be alone.
  • Choose to live life without interference from others.
  • Get little pleasure from life.
  • Have little interest in sex or intimacy.
  • Be emotionally cold.


  • Find making close relationships extremely difficult.
  • Think and express yourself in ways that others find odd.
  • Behave in ways that others find eccentric.
  • Believe you can read minds or have special powers.
  • Feel anxious and tense with others who do not share these beliefs.
  • Feel very anxious and paranoid in social situations.

Picture: iStock

Antisocial or psychopathy

  • Put yourself in dangerous situations.
  • Behave illegally.
  • Behave in ways that are unpleasant for others.
  • Feel very easily bored and act on impulse.
  • Behave aggressively and get into fights easily.
  • Put your needs above other people’s.
  • Feel no sense of guilt if you have mistreated others.
  • Believe that only the strongest survive and you must do whatever it takes to lead a successful life.
  • Have had a diagnosis of conduct disorder before the age of 15.

Picture: iStock

Borderline personality disorder

  • Feel very worried about people abandoning you.
  • Have very intense emotions that can change quickly.
  • Do not have a strong sense of who you are, and it can change depending on who you’re with.
  • Find it hard to make and keep stable relationships.
  • Act impulsively and do things that could harm you.
  • Have suicidal thoughts or self-harming behaviour.
  • Feel empty and lonely.
  • Get very angry and struggle to control your anger. When very stressed, sometimes you might:
  • Feel paranoid.
  • See or hear things other people don’t.
  • Feel numb or checked out and not remember things properly.


  • Feel very uncomfortable if you are not the centre of attention.
  • Feel more at ease as the life and soul of the party.
  • Feel you have to entertain people
  • Flirt or behave provocatively to remain the centre of attention.
  • Get a reputation for being dramatic and overemotional.
  • Feel dependent on the approval of others.
  • Be easily influenced by others.

Picture: iStock


  • Believe there are special reasons that make you different, better or more deserving than others.
  • Have fragile self-esteem.
  • Feel upset if others don’t give you what you feel you deserve.
  • Resent other people’s success.
  • Put your own needs above other people’s and demand they do, too.
  • Be seen as selfish.
  • Take advantage of other people.

Avoidant (or anxious)

  • Avoid work or social activities that mean you must be with others.
  • Expect disapproval and criticism and be very sensitive to it.
  • Worry constantly about being found out and rejected.
  • Worry about being ridiculed or shamed by others.
  • Avoid relationships and intimacy because you fear rejection.
  • Feel lonely, isolated and inferior.
  • Are reluctant to try new activities in case you embarrass yourself.

Picture: iStock


  • Feel needy, weak and unable to make decisions or function properly without help or support.
  • Allow others to assume responsibility for many areas of your life.
  • Agree to things you feel are wrong to avoid being alone or losing someone’s support.
  • Be afraid of being left to fend for yourself.
  • Have low self-confidence.
  • See other people as being much more capable than you are.
  • Be seen by others as much too submissive and passive.

Obsessive compulsive personality disorder (OCPD)

  • Need to keep everything in order and under control.
  • Set unrealistically high standards for yourself and others.
  • Think yours is the best way of making things happen.
  • Worry when you or others might make mistakes.
  • Expect catastrophes if things aren’t perfect.
  • Be reluctant to spend money on yourself or others.
  • Hang on to items with no obvious value.

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