Giving someone a diagnosis of personality disorder is highly controversial (see Why is PD a controversial diagnosis? section). This is in part because of the stigma surrounding this label which can lead to discrimination. In addition, some people find the diagnosis insulting and unhelpful.
Like all psychiatric diagnoses, it reflects a particular way of understanding emotional distress and coping strategies as symptoms, located within the individual rather than a broader social context.
Recognising these difficulties, some psychiatrists are reluctant to give people a diagnosis of personality disorder. Instead, they may focus on the way a person’s behaviour prevents them living the life they want. However, if you feel that your experiences fit with those described under one of the PD diagnoses and would find it helpful to put a name to your experiences, you can ask a psychiatrist about this. Similarly, if you have been given a diagnosis of PD but do not think it is appropriate, you are entitled to ask for a second opinion.
How is a diagnosis given?
A mental health professional makes a diagnosis of personality disorder based on criteria given in one of two psychiatric manuals. In the UK and the rest of Europe, most clinicians use ICD-10 Classification of Mental and Behavioural Disorders (World Health Organisation, 1992). In America, clinicians use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders -DSM IV (American Psychiatric Association, 2000). These manuals outline all mental health conditions and inform all diagnoses. The criteria for each of the different types of personality disorder from both manuals is combined and summarised below under the appropriate heading.
A word of caution: The personality traits described below are commonly experienced by most people from time to time, especially adolescents. For these traits to lead to a diagnosis of personality disorder, they would need to be longstanding, intense and persistent, significantly impacting on your ability to lead the life you would like. Making a self diagnosis based on information on a web page or from a book is not recommended. If you are at all concerned about your mental health or are feeling distressed, seek professional help urgently. See section on ‘Finding support in your area’.
The different types of personality disorder are arranged into clusters which group together diagnoses that are most closely linked.
- Paranoid Personality Disorder
- Schizoid Personality Disorder
- Schizotypal Personality Disorder
- Antisocial Personality Disorder
- Borderline Personality Disorder
- Histrionic Personality Disorder
- Narcissistic Personality Disorder
- Avoidant Personality Disorder
- Dependent Personality Disorder
- Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder