What Are Personality Disorders?

A personality disorder is a mental health disorder. It’s thought that around 9% of the population qualifies for a personality disorder diagnosis. That’s almost one in ten people, so it makes sense to learn about personality disorders since someone you love could have one.

This type of disorder is diagnosable by a professional using criteria from a widely used manual in psychiatry called the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. The most current issue of this manual is the fifth version, and it’s called the DSM-5-TR.

If someone’s personality doesn’t fit the cultural norm and causes long-term problems and heartache in their personal relationships and personal life, it’s possible that they have a personality disorder. That said, a diagnosis can’t be made by friends or family. It must be made by a trained mental health professional. 

Furthermore, people under age 18 cannot receive a personality disorder diagnosis because their personality is considered to not yet be fully formed.

10 personality disorders

Given the fact that so many people have personality disorders, it’s natural for someone in an unhappy marriage to wonder if they have, or if their spouse has, a personality disorder. After all, such a diagnosis might explain some or all of the problems in the marriage.

However, the presence of marital problems does not necessarily mean someone has a personality disorder. And again, only a professional can diagnose and treat these disorders. 

10 personality disorders

We invite you to read the following personality disorder descriptions to see if any resonate with you or someone in your life.

  • Antisocial PD: This person may seem to have no regard for the rights of others. They may lie or display impulsive behaviors with little regard for the consequences of their impulsivity.
  • Avoidant PD:  This person is plagued by low self-esteem and sensitivity to criticism. To prevent a dreaded rejection, they may avoid relationships altogether, or they may stick only with people who they believe won’t abandon them.
  • Borderline PD: A person with borderline personality disorder (BPD) has a strong fear of abandonment They experience emotions with high intensity, such as extreme anger or chronic feelings of emptiness. They may experience suicidal thoughts or suicidal ideation.
  • Dependent PD: This person tends to be clingy and reliant on others for reassurance and care. Without the person (or persons) on whom to depend, they feel distressed and helpless.
  • Histrionic PD: This person seeks to be the center of attention, and they may try to draw attention through their actions or exaggerated emotional displays.
  • Narcissistic PD: This person lacks the ability to have empathy for others. They have a deep need for and feel entitled to the admiration of others.
  • Obsessive-compulsive PD: This person focuses on details and schedules and may be inflexible in their thinking. Their preoccupations leave them with little or no ability to focus on relationships or leisure.
  • Paranoid PD: This person views other people as enemies. They expect others to have ill intent and, as a result, have trouble getting close to others.
  • Schizoid PD: This person is socially detached and seems to prefer to be alone. They appear not to care what others think of them at all. Note that schizoid personality is not the same thing as schizophrenia.
  • Schizotypal personality disorder: This person may be eccentric and experience a high degree of social anxiety. Their thinking may be distorted.

Are personality disorders treatable?

Let’s hypothetically say that your spouse has a personality disorder. Is a cure in sight, or is this something they are stuck with for life?

It depends. 

If a person has a personality disorder that makes them distrustful of others or avoidant of confrontation, it can be hard to engage them in therapy. They might start a therapeutic relationship with a counselor, but they might be considered at risk for early termination of therapy due to the nature of their problems.

If a person with a personality disorder is able to work with a skilled therapist, however, it may be possible for them to find help and relief. Three commonly used therapy techniques for people with personality disorders are the following:

Dialectical behavioral therapy

Dialectical behavioral therapy is also known as DBT. Per the Mayo Clinic, treatment often involves weekly meetings with a therapist for about a year as well as regular group therapy meetings. DBT focuses on gaining insight and learning strategies to control one’s emotions and handle distress. 

Cognitive therapy

As the name suggests, cognitive therapy focuses on a patient’s thoughts – specifically, it focuses on the negative and false thoughts a person might have that contribute to their downward spirals. The therapist helps the patient identify the specific negative, often automatic, thoughts they are having. Then, they provide the patient with techniques for “reprogramming” their thoughts to be more positive and productive.

Cognitive behavioral therapy

Also known as CBT, cognitive behavioral therapy focuses on thought patterns and behaviors that do not serve the patient. It is a popular form of treatment for depression, anxiety, and substance abuse, among other things. Some people with personality disorders have had success with it. Notably, DBT (above) is an offshoot of CBT.

What about medication?

A psychiatrist might be able to prescribe medication that treats the symptoms of personality disorders such as depression, anxiety, anger, or psychosis. However, there are no medications currently available that are made specifically to treat any personality disorder.

What a personality disorder diagnosis means for your marriage

If personality disorder has touched your marriage, you may wonder what’s in store for you. You may feel optimistic about finding treatment, or you may feel worn down and discouraged by all that has already happened. Here are some tips you might find helpful, depending on your situation.


  • Learn all you can about the disorder.
  • Try to view the relationship from your partner’s point of view.
  • Work on your communication skills as a couple.
  • Create boundaries, and learn how to detach from them to protect yourself as needed.
  • Put your emotional well-being and physical safety first.

If personality disorder has created a marital fracture that cannot be repaired, it may be time to consider separation or divorce. At Hello Divorce, our aim is to make the divorce process as easy and inexpensive as possible. In addition to a menu of online divorce plans, we offer one-on-one legal advice, mediation to help you and your spouse arrive at an acceptable settlement agreement, financial planning services, and much more.

Schedule a free 15-minute phone call with one of our account coordinators to find out how we can help you.


Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DMS-5-TR). American Psychiatric Association.

Senior Editor
Communication, Relationships, Divorce Insights
Melissa Schmitz is Senior Editor at Hello Divorce, and her greatest delight is to help make others’ lives easier – especially when they’re in the middle of a stressful life transition like divorce. After 15 years as a full-time school music teacher, she traded in her piano for a laptop and has been happily writing and editing content for the last decade. She earned her Bachelor of Psychology degree from Alma College and her teaching certificate from Michigan State University. She still plays and sings for fun at farmer’s markets, retirement homes, and the occasional bar with her local Michigan band.