Personality disorders

Personality disorders are a group of psychiatric conditions marked by chronic behavior patterns that cause serious problems with relationships and work.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors 

People with personality disorders have difficulty dealing with everyday stresses and problems, and they often have stormy relationships with others. These conditions vary from mild to severe and tend to be difficult to treat.

The exact cause of personality disorders is unknown. However, numerous genetic and environmental factors are thought to play a role.


Symptoms vary widely depending on the specific type of personality disorder.

Signs and tests 

Personality disorders are diagnosed based on a psychological evaluation and the history and severity of the symptoms. Currently, mental health professionals categorize these disorders into the following subtypes:


People with these disorders usually do not seek treatment on their own. No single type of medication or therapy has been shown to be consistently effective in treating personality disorders.

Expectations (prognosis) 

The outlook varies. Some personality disorders diminish during middle age without any treatment, while others persist throughout life despite treatment.


  • Problems with interpersonal relationships  
  • Problems with career  
  • Other psychiatric disorders

Calling your health care provider 

Call for an appointment with your health care provider or mental health professional if you or someone close to you has symptoms of a personality disorder.

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 3, 2012
by Gevorg A. Poghosian, Ph.D.

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