What is personality disorder and what are the signs?

A personality disorder is a mental health condition characterised by rigid and enduring patterns of thinking, feeling and behaviour that significantly deviate from cultural expectations, causing distress or impairment in various areas of a person’s life. These patterns tend to be stable over time and can lead to difficulties in relationships, work, and other important life functions.

There are several types of personality disorders, each with its own distinct set of characteristics. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), which is commonly used by mental health professionals for diagnosing mental disorders, categorises personality disorders into three clusters.

These three clusters include:

Cluster A: Odd or Eccentric Behaviors

  • Paranoid Personality Disorder: Characterized by extreme distrust and suspicion of others, even without evidence.
  • Schizoid Personality Disorder: Involves detachment from social relationships and limited emotional expression.
  • Schizotypal Personality Disorder: Involves odd beliefs, behaviours, and difficulties with social interactions.

Cluster B: Dramatic, Emotional, or Erratic Behaviors

  • Antisocial Personality Disorder: Marked by disregard for the rights of others, lack of empathy, and a tendency toward criminal behaviour.
  • Borderline Personality Disorder: Features unstable relationships, self-image, and emotions, often leading to intense mood swings and impulsive behaviours.
  • Histrionic Personality Disorder: Characterized by attention-seeking behaviour, excessive emotionality, and a desire to be the centre of attention.
  • Narcissistic Personality Disorder: Involves an exaggerated sense of self-importance, a need for admiration, and a lack of empathy for others.

Cluster C: Anxious or Fearful Behaviors

  • Avoidant Personality Disorder: Marked by extreme social inhibition, fear of criticism, and a strong desire for social acceptance.
  • Dependent Personality Disorder: Involves excessive reliance on others for decision-making and emotional support.
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder: Features a preoccupation with orderliness, perfectionism, and control.

It’s important to note that diagnosing a personality disorder requires a comprehensive assessment by a trained mental health professional. The signs of personality disorders can vary widely depending on the specific disorder, but some general signs may include:

  • Persistent patterns of behaviour, thoughts, and emotions that cause distress or impair daily functioning.
  • Difficulty forming and maintaining healthy relationships.
  • Inflexibility in adapting to different situations or changing circumstances.
  • Repeated conflicts with others due to behavioural or emotional issues.
  • Impulsive or risky behaviour.
  • Unstable or intense emotions.
  • Difficulty managing anger or frustration.
  • Distorted self-perception or identity.
  • Lack of insight into one’s behaviour and its impact on others.

If you or someone you know is exhibiting signs of a personality disorder, it’s important to seek professional help from a mental health provider. Therapy, medication, and other forms of support can help individuals manage their symptoms and improve their quality of life.

What are the statistics on personality disorders in the UK?

In the UK, personality disorders are recognized as a significant mental health concern, but the prevalence and statistics can vary based on the specific disorder and the methods used to gather data. Here are some general points to consider:


Personality disorders are estimated to affect a notable portion of the population. Prevalence rates can vary between different disorders within the clusters and across different studies.



Individuals with personality disorders often face challenges in accessing appropriate treatment due to the complexity of their conditions. Treatment options may include therapy (such as dialectical behaviour therapy or cognitive-behavioural therapy), medication, and support services.



Personality disorders can have a significant impact on various aspects of an individual’s life, including relationships, work, and overall well-being. They may also increase the risk of other mental health issues and difficulties in functioning.


Stigma and Awareness:

Stigma and lack of awareness about personality disorders can contribute to delays in diagnosis and treatment. Raising public awareness and reducing stigma are important steps in improving the quality of life for individuals with these conditions.

For the most recent and accurate statistics on personality disorders in the UK, we recommend checking official sources such as the National Health Service (NHS), the Office for National Statistics (ONS), and mental health organizations like Mind or the Mental Health Foundation. These organizations often conduct studies, gather data, and publish reports related to mental health conditions, including personality disorders.

Who to contact about personality disorder UK:

If you or someone you know in the UK is seeking information, support, or help related to personality disorders, there are several organizations and resources you can contact. Here are some options:

  • NHS (National Health Service): The NHS provides mental health services across the UK. You can start by contacting your local GP (general practitioner) for an assessment and referral to appropriate mental health services.


  • Mind: Mind is a mental health charity in the UK that offers information, resources, and support for individuals experiencing mental health challenges, including personality disorders. You can visit their website or contact their Infoline for assistance.


Infoline: 0300 123 3393


  • Rethink Mental Illness: Rethink is another UK-based mental health charity that provides support for people affected by mental illness, including personality disorders. They offer information, advice, and advocacy services.


Helpline: 0808 801 0707


  • SANE: SANE is a mental health charity that offers emotional support, information, and guidance to individuals experiencing mental health difficulties, including personality disorders.


Helpline: 0300 304 7000


  • Local Mental Health Services: Each region in the UK has local mental health services that provide assessment, diagnosis, and treatment for various mental health conditions, including personality disorders. You can search for the mental health services available in your area on the NHS website.


  • Online Support Groups: There are online communities and support groups specifically dedicated to personality disorders. These can provide a platform for sharing experiences, seeking advice, and connecting with others who understand what you’re going through.

Remember that seeking help and support is an important step towards managing and improving mental health. If you’re in crisis or need immediate assistance, please don’t hesitate to contact emergency services or go to your nearest A&E (Accident & Emergency) department.

It’s also important to stay informed about the most up-to-date resources and contact information, as these details may change over time.