Medical Definition of Personality disorder

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Personality disorder: A disorder characterized by the chronic use of mechanisms of coping in an inappropriate, stereotyped, and maladaptive manner. Personality disorders are enduring and persistent styles of behavior and thought, not atypical episodes. The personality disorders encompass a group of behavioral disorders that are different and distinct from the psychotic and neurotic disorders. The official psychiatric manual, the DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association, Fourth Edition), defines a personality disorder as an enduring pattern of inner experience and behavior that differs markedly from the expectations of the individual's culture, is pervasive and inflexible, has an onset in adolescence or early adulthood, is stable over time, and leads to distress or impairment. Personality disorders are a long-standing and maladaptive pattern of perceiving and responding to other people and to stressful circumstances.

Ten personality disorders, grouped into 3 clusters, are defined in the DSM-IV:

  • Cluster A -- Odd or eccentric behavior.
    Includes:
    • Paranoid personality disorder
    • Schizoid personality disorder
  • Cluster B -- Dramatic, emotional or erratic behavior.
    Includes:
  • Cluster C -- Anxious fearful behavior.
    Includes:

See also: Multiple personality disorder; Passive-aggressive personality disorder; and Schizotypal personality disorder.

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Reviewed on 12/21/2018

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