Conditions & Treatments

Personality Disorders

Persons with a personality disorder display more rigid and maladaptive thinking and reacting behaviors that often disrupt their personal, professional, and social lives.

Personality Disorders

What are personality disorders?

For people without a personality disorder, personality traits are patterns of thinking, reacting, and behaving that remain relatively consistent and stable over time. People with a personality disorder display more rigid thinking and reacting behaviors that make it hard for them to adapt to a situation. These behaviors often disrupt their personal, professional, and social lives.

What are the most common types of personality disorders?

Generally, personality disorders are divided into 3 subtypes (or clusters), and include the following:



Cluster A:


Cluster B:


Cluster C:


Examples of odd/eccentric (Cluster A) personality disorders

  • Paranoid personality disorder. People with this disorder are often cold, distant, and unable to form close, interpersonal relationships. Often overly, yet unjustifiably, suspicious of their surroundings, people with paranoid personality disorder generally cannot see their role in conflict situations. Instead, they often project their feelings of paranoia as anger onto others.

  • Schizoid personality disorder. People with this disorder are often cold, distant, introverted, and have an intense fear of intimacy and closeness. People with schizoid personality disorder are absorbed in their own thinking and daydreaming. Because of this, they exclude themselves from attachment to people and reality.

  • Schizotypal personality disorder. Similar to those with schizoid personality disorder, people with this disorder are often cold, distant, introverted, and have an intense fear of intimacy and closeness. Yet, with schizotypal personality disorder, people also show disordered thinking, perception, and ineffective communication skills. Many symptoms of schizotypal personality disorder resemble schizophrenia, but are less intense and intrusive.

Examples of dramatic/erratic (Cluster B) personality disorders

  • Borderline personality disorder. People with this disorder are not stable in their perceptions of themselves, and have difficulty keeping stable relationships. Moods may also be inconsistent, but never neutral. Their sense of reality is always seen in "black and white." People with borderline personality disorder often feel as though they lacked a certain level of nurturing while growing up. As a result, they constantly seek a higher level of caretaking from others as adults. This may be achieved through manipulation of others, leaving them often feeling empty, angry, and abandoned, which may lead to desperate and impulsive behavior.

  • Antisocial personality disorder. People with this disorder characteristically disregard the feelings, property, authority, and respect of others for their own personal gain. This may include violent or aggressive acts involving or targeting other individuals, without a sense of regret or guilt for any of their destructive actions.

  • Narcissistic personality disorder. People with this disorder present severely overly-inflated feelings of self-worth, grandness, and superiority over others. People with narcissistic personality disorder often exploit others who fail to admire them. They are overly sensitive to criticism, judgment, and defeat.

  • Histrionic personality disorder. People with this disorder are overly conscious of their appearance and are constantly seeking attention. They also often behave dramatically in situations that do not warrant this type of reaction. The emotional expressions of people with histrionic personality disorder are often judged as superficial and exaggerated.

Examples of anxious/inhibited (Cluster C) personality disorders

  • Dependent personality disorder. People with this disorder rely heavily on others for validation and fulfillment of basic needs. They are often unable to properly care for themselves. People with dependent personality disorder lack self-confidence and security, and have a hard time making decisions.

  • Avoidant personality disorder. People with this disorder are hypersensitive to rejection. Because of  this, they avoid situations with any possible conflict. This reaction is fear-driven. People with avoidant personality disorder become disturbed by their own social isolation, withdrawal, and inability to form close, interpersonal relationships.

  • Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder. People with this disorder are inflexible to change. They are bothered by a disrupted routine due to their obsession for order. They experience anxiety and have trouble completing tasks and making decisions. People with obsessive-compulsive personality disorder often become uncomfortable in situations that are beyond their control. They have difficulty maintaining positive, healthy interpersonal relationships as a result.

Treatment for personality disorders

Specific treatment for each personality disorder will be determined by your health care provider based on:

  • Your age, overall health, and medical history

  • Type and severity of symptoms

  • Extent of the disease

  • Your tolerance for specific medicines, procedures, or therapies

  • Expectations for the course of the disease

  • Your opinion or preference

Personality disorders are often difficult to treat. They may need long-term attention to change the inappropriate behavior and thought patterns. Treatment may include:

  • Medicine (although medicine may not be used correctly and has limited effectiveness)

  • Psychological treatment (including family involvement)

Treatment Programs

Massachusetts General Hospital understands that a variety of factors influence patients' health care decisions. That's just one reason why we're dedicated to ensuring patients understand their diagnosis and treatment options. Because a single option might not serve all patients, we offer a wide range of coordinated treatments and related services across the hospital. Patients should consult with their primary care doctor or other qualified health care provider for medical advice and diagnosis information.

Select a treatment program for more information:

MassGeneral Hospital for Children

  • Psychology Assessment Center
    The pediatric neuropsychology specialists at Massachusetts General Hospital’s Psychology Assessment Center provide neuropsychological assessments to aid in the diagnosis and treatment of neurological, medical, genetic and developmental disorders.
Department of Neurology

  • Cognitive Behavioral Neurology Unit
    The Cognitive Behavioral Neurology Unit offers diagnosis and treatment to patients with disorders and diseases of the brain affecting language, memory, problem solving, emotional function and behavior.

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