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Personality Disorder Message Board

Personality Disorder Board Index

Q. How many personality disorders does the DSM describe? And what are they?

I am going to phrase my answers in casual layman’s language. Now I want you to know that I am just referring to symptoms, not people! People can have some lousy behaviors, but those behaviors are not THEM. If you have had one of the following labels applied to you, please know it is a label for a behavior/personality style; it is not you. No matter what label you may have gotten, you are a pretty decent person with some issues that peak and may continue to peak until you find ways of dealing with them. Having said that some of these symptoms/behaviors are not nice and I can be blunt about them.

A. The DSM IV-TR ( Diagnostic and statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association) describes the following 10 disorders in the body of its text:
Cluster A: Paranoid, Schizoid, Schizotypal. This group is characterized by eccentric behaviors, and hold others at arms length for various reasons.
Cluster B: Antisocial, Borderline, Histrionic, Narcissistic This group is outgoing,. All members of this group are clearly narcissistic. They all have trouble keeping appropriate boundaries and tend to use others, each in its own way.
Cluster C: Avoidant, Dependent, Obsessive-Compulsive. This group is known as “the anxious ones” They range from giving up all power to others (dependent) to wanting to have total control over others’ details. (OCD pdo is different from O-C disorder. OCD pdo is much more about details and control than having to repeat things over and over as in OCD proper.

In addition to these ten, there is the catchall pdo: Personality Disorder NOS (301.9) This is listed in the DSM for those who do not clearly fit one of the above, but have enough PDO traits to mention it.


Passive-Aggressive pdo is mentioned in Appendix B of the DSM_TR. This pdo is about NOT doing the stuff one is supposed to do. Sabotage through the stab in the back, rather than face-to-face.

Depressive PDO. These people are pessimistic and nothing you say, and NO med can influence their attitude. This pdo is also in appendix B of the DSM-TR

Adding these two disorders brings us up to 13 personality disorders.

The next two pdo’s were mysteriously dropped from appendices of the DSM-TR but may still be worthy of honorable mentions in the overall list: They were listed for many years in appendices of previous DSM’s and are worthy of thought:

Self-defeating (masochistic pdo) Set themselves up to fail and/or be hurt, physically, mentally, you name it.

Sadistic pdo. These are folks who do not mind stepping on heads metaphorically or torturing people psychologically and/ or physically. This pdo seems to be a prerequisite for serial rapists and murderers.

I would be interested in finding out why these two pdo’s were dropped.

Any corections, additions to above?
Q. Is there one personality disorder that seems to be core to all of the rest of them?

A. I was recently introduced to the concept that narcissism is the underlying pdo. This idea would give rise to a pdo model shaped like a tree with each of the others branching off from narcissism. (Pine tree as in Christmas tree style?) This may be a true assertion, but it isn’t a good model because of all the overlapping traits. Which branch should grow from which?

Now I do think escalated narcissistic behaviors are the straight path to psychopathy rather than anti-social pdo by itself. I would imagine many if not all criminal psychopaths will have highly escalated narcissistic traits and may also have antisocial and/or sadistic traits.

Perhaps all psychopaths score on the narcissistic scale, but the reverse is certainly not true. There are many healthy narcissists and it is an excellent personality style for many successful people. Dr Oldham calls it “the Self-Confident” personality style.

It is easy for people to tell when people have gone over the top in self-confidence and/or false self-confidence; it is then called “an Ego Trip” by laymen. Some people are continuously on some kind of exaggerated ego trip and are callous and un-empathetic: that is narcissistic pdo in a nut shell. What narcissism shares with other pdo’s is some kind of exaggerated sense of self (positive or negative), poor boundaries, lack of insight, and blaming, or not taking responsibility. Pdo’s are about people’s non-productive habits, not about the people themselves.

Does this make Narcissism the underlying pdo? I don’t know, but it is interesting to look at.

Quote of the day: “As we learn about our habitual way of being in the world, we can transform our habit from a stumbling block (albeit one that has aided us as children) to our greatest gift. In other words, we move from unconscious behavior to conscious behavior. We run our habit, rather than it running us. The most compelling reason is to become our best self, to live and love to the fullest of our abilities.” Lynette Sheppard
I am most interested in the Cluster B personality disorders, I have a copy of the DSMiv right here. It may be a little out of date, but it will do for listing and comparing.

First I will summarize in layman’s language what I think the DSM is saying about some of the escalated behaviors of each of the Cluster B pdo’s, then I will describe a well-compensated person of that personality type – well compensated meaning no escalated behaviors (or just everyday escalated behaviors!). Each disorder has a really great personality type behind it, waiting to be expressed! Personality disorders are about escalated behaviors, not the personality behind them!

Antisocial Personality Disorder. When escalated: Callous, shallow, and glib, this pdo uses these traits to put over their lies, cheats, cons, and steals. Self-centered rule breakers and boundary pushers, they will not own up to anything bad, unless it serves a purpose Lack of insight. Blaming behaviors. Multiple destructive relationships. Are impulsive and main emotion is anger. Will put themselves and others at risk and be calm about it.

A well compensated person of this type is described as the Adventurous style: It is characterized by a strong internal code of values. Has the unstressable personality able to take on challenges and high-risk challenges. Probably will still be outside the norms, but not the law. Adventurers. Astronuats, explorers, high risk sports, test pilots, any one succeeding on the frontiers. And all the risky jobs. They live fast, live high, but live well. Only a very few people with this personality style have escalated behaviors

Borderline Personality Disorder: When escalated: Impulsive, highly volatile emotions, self-centered, boundary pushers who can devalue and/or dump others on a dime, “I can put you down/leave you, but you can’t put me down/leave me!” Being dumped can lead to highly escalated behaviors. Devalue themselves emotionally, physically, mentally and present this as self-loathing image. Lack of insight and a lot of blaming behaviors. People don’t get this diagnosis without some significant self-harm or SI issues. This is the ONLY pdo that is characterized by self-harm. My opinion on self harm is about 10 pages long, so I won’t go there….but I will put it up elsewhere if anyone asks.

A well compensated person of this type is described as the Mercurial style. Deeply emotional, they have learned to handle being rocked with emotion and they know how to give their emotions plenty of positive outlets. This becomes a fervently lived lifestyle of passion and deep connection. Passion lends charisma to this personality style. Romantic passion – of course! But any deep interest becomes a passion. Sports, arts, cooking, you name it, these are all big in America today because of the people who have a passion for them. Gifted with great empathy and deep insight they can become the most passionate of encouragers. Down to earth, they neither devalue nor inflate themselves, but fill others with their enthusiasm for their passions.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder: Escalated behaviors: This is the classic person on an ego trip. A shallow mask is presented to the world. Self-centered, grandiose, callous, glib, lies, cons, and superior snobby behaviors. Lacking in insight. It’s all about appearances. Dotes on admiration. Steps on heads and toes. Will devalue others and grab more than their share of credit, attention. Has been said not to be in love with self but with refection of perceived self from others. Manipulates this false image to get admiring responses.

A well compensated person of this type is called the Self-Confident personality style. These people are good and they know it. They are charismatic and naturally draw attention to themselves. People readily bestow it. They are extroverted, goal oriented (ambitious) and intensely political. They are very self aware and have great insight. They understand what motivates others and can supply it. Even scoring just a few traits on this scale adds pizzazz to other personality styles.

Histrionic Personality disorder: Self centered, emotional, dramatic, impulsive, exitement seeking, shallow, glib, and vague. Sexual overtones in dress and behaviors. Appearances are everything. Dotes on attention. Dramatics to get attention. Flamboyant style. Some SI, if crushed. Poor insight and blame shifting.

A well compensated person of this type has been called the Dramatic style. Sensation seeking, demonstrative, affectionate. Spontaneous and lively. Strong sense of harmonious relations. ability to make others comfortable. Perform BEST under intense scrutiny. Often found in the spotlight or in front of people -actors, teachers, motivational specialists, in highly competitive individual sports such as gymnastics, tennis, and golf, they get BETTER under pressure.

Hey Mistyone
Interesting thoughts. Is there a forum somewhere for that? Right now I am focused, I just have this hankering to get to it with personality disorder stuff. I retired last November due to illness. I have so much time on my hands to think and write. These forums stimulate me to form opinions and share them. Now I am looking for a forum that can relate to some of my thoughts on personality disorders. I see so much fear and even hopelessness and circular thinking from people who are just beginning to figure it out. I wonder if putting up a semi-coherent point of view that stands just a little bit separate from the standard DSM thinking of pdos would help ground people more into who they really are and less into PDO acting out behaviors.

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