Personality Traits & Personality Disorder

What is the difference between a personality trait and a personality disorder? What makes the personality abnormal?

Personality is a relatively stable, consistent, and enduring internal characteristic that is inferred from a pattern of behaviors, attitudes, feelings, and habits in the individual. The study of personality traits can be useful in summarizing, predicting, and explaining an individual’s conduct. The question is: what makes these personality traits abnormal and fall under disorder?

Personality disorders are a group of disorders that involve pervasive patterns of perceiving, relating to, and thinking about the environment and the self that interfere with the long-term functioning of the individual. The three clusters of personality disorder are:

Cluster A: Paranoid, Schizoid, and Schizotypal – The disorders are odd and eccentric

Cluster B: Antisocial, Histrionic, and Narcissistic – The disorders are dramatic and erratic

Cluster C: Avoidant, Dependent, and Obsessive compulsive – The disorders are anxious and inhibited

The DSM classification gives a clear understanding of impaired personality functions and the pathology of the traits that are used as the main criteria for identifying the presence of a personality disorder.

The difference – Personality trait & Personality disorder
Flexibility or rigidity

Personality traits are more flexible than personality disorders, which are rigid. Personality traits can be altered; for example, the personality trait of being an introvert is aware of the individual being an introvert, but it could change over time in different situations, like if they are required to talk in their workplace or college. Personality disorders are well established, and the person is rigid and never alters.

Empathy or self-cantered

People with personality disorders have difficulty seeing and understanding other people’s perspectives. They refuse to empathize or sympathize with others around them. They strongly hold on to their perspectives and understanding.

One trait vs. a group of traits

Every disorder under the category of personality disorder has a specific set of characteristics that indicate the disorder. The specific cluster of traits shows up altogether in one person. The psychologist looks into the set of traits and how they appear in situations. For example, in dependent personality disorder, the traits are more oriented toward the individual being dependent; the extreme need to be taken care of results in clinging and submissive behavior.

Insight or ignorance

People with personality disorders lack insight and understanding about themselves and how their behavior is affecting others around them. Even if they are genuinely confronted by others, they are ignorant and don’t reflect on themselves. It is normal and natural for individuals, when confronted, to reflect on themselves. However, people with personality disorders are ignorant and don’t have any self-realization.

Keeping relationships or losing relationships

Lack of insight and understanding can cause issues and distance in all their relationships. Living with any type of personality disorder can ruin and disrupt their relationships with others. The ruin can be caused by conflicts, infidelity, quickly moving from one relationship to another, cheating, being extremely submissive, or avoiding people. Friends and families around them find it very difficult to communicate and handle.

Adaptive or maladaptive

Pervasive maladaptive behaviors are common among people with personality disorders. They are rigid in their behavior and adapt themselves to different and difficult situations. They are more keen on doing what they intend to do, whether it is adaptive or maladaptive.

Examples of rigid beliefs associated with specific disorders.
Personality Disorder Core belief
Paranoid I can never ever trust a human being.
Schizoid All relationships are worthless and meaningless.
Schizotypal It is better to be alone always
Histrionic People are always there to serve and admire me.
Narcissistic I am so special and I am always right.
Antisocial I am entitled to break all the rules and regulations.
Borderline I deserve to be punished.
Avoidant If people knew me would know me the value and worth of me.
Dependent I need people to take care of me only then I can be happy.
Obsessive – Compulsive People should follow the rules and order. They should try harder.




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