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What Is a Personality Disorder?

Learn what a personality disorder is from psychiatrist Ankur Saraiya in this Howcast video.


What is a Personality Disorder: The first thing to understand is that personality disorders are grouped as a group of diagnoses to separate them from what we call Primary or Access 1 disorders. In the DSM, which is the manual that psychiatrists use to make diagnoses, they came up with a system of 5 Axis. Axis 1 through 5 and Axis 1 are illnesses like depression, like schizophrenia and things like that, and then you have your Axis 2 diagnoses and mostly these are personality disorders. The other important thing to understand is that these disorders were not designed to label people or to categorize people, but to help to understand why people come in for treatment and why people develop certain symptoms and have distress. It's important to remember that we came first and the diagnostic manual came second so the personality disorders are a group of disorders used to help understand where people have certain personality styles and traits that end up leading to symptoms. The definition of a personality disorder is a comprehensive set of behaviors and thoughts and actions that lead to repeated episodes of distress or problems mostly in relating to other people. The personality disorders are present across the different aspects of a person's life and they've been constant and stable starting from at least early adulthood, and they manifest in repeated experiences based on the way the individual perceives and experiences and, therefore, responds to the world. Often time the individual is not aware that they have these patterns of behavior but they end up coming to treatment when, as a result of these personality problems, they end up getting into situations that lead to problems in relationships, problems in advancing in their career that lead to frustration and can develop into symptoms of depression. So again, a personality disorder is a way of understanding a pattern of behavior and functioning in a person that leads to repeated episodes of distress.

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