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What is a Personality Disorder?

There can be a lot of overlap between the behaviors associated with Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Antisocial Personality Disorder (ASPD), and Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) as well as PTSD or C-PTSD.

Many trauma specialists believe that PTSD (or C-PTSD) is often misdiagnosed as Borderline Personality Disorder. It's common for a person to get out of an abusive relationship and feel unstable because they've been psychologically abused. They may have a poor self-image because they've been continually told that there is a lot wrong with them. They might display impulsive and risky behavior. They may struggle with normal behavior after living with a crazy-maker or have poor emotional control because they've been traumatized. They may even feel suicidal because they are emotionally devastated and generally have PTSD and fear abandonment as they've been in a relationship with someone who was continually threatening.

Many narcissists' targets tend to be diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD), which can be devastating if they've only read about extreme stories of BPD behavior (which is usually abusive or dramatic). If they have a BPD diagnosis, they may wonder if the narcissist/abuser was right—that they were the problem all along and somehow deserving of being mistreated. Please know that even if you have BPD or have some mental illness such as bipolar, it is still no excuse for being abused. Borderline Personality Disorder is often treated with Dialectal Behavioral Therapy (DBT), which is based on mindfulness and acceptance techniques that help a person understand and express their feelings. 

A personality disorder is pervasive and persistent problematic behavior that is outside what would be considered appropriate behavior according to a person's culture or age. When a person's behavior is this problematic, it negatively impacts their relationships or their ability to function in society—even though they might not realize it.


Currently, the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition) recognizes 10 personality disorders and has them grouped into 3 clusters (referred to as A, B, and C). Each cluster has a set of common characteristics.

  • Cluster A is characterized as "odd and eccentric" and include paranoid personality disorder, schizoid personality disorder, and schizotypal personality disorders.

  • Cluster B is characterized as "dramatic, erratic, and emotional." This includes antisocial personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, histrionic personality disorder, and narcissistic personality disorder.

  • Cluster C is characterized by anxious, fearful thinking or behavior. This includes avoidant personality disorder, dependent personality disorder, and obsessive-compulsive personality disorder. 


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