Personality disorders lead to maladaptive patterns of thought and behavior. Though there are numerous personality disorders, some have shared symptoms. Once a doctor diagnoses someone with a personality disorder, the individual can begin to control and manage their symptoms with medication, therapy, or a combination of the two.
A common trait of individuals with personality disorders is unpredictable behavior, with no constant or typical reaction. They are more likely to make impulsive decisions and may be prone to odd habits such as walking in a specific direction or eating food in a specific order. A deviation from their set patterns can elicit a strong, negative reaction.
Personality disorders can make people more prone to fear and paranoia. Individuals may become overly suspicious of everything, including other people, documents, and chance occurrences, perhaps to the point of distrusting friends and family. Irrational fears of individual objects and phenomena may also suddenly manifest, primarily if the disorder is caused by a challenging or traumatic experience. Paranoia is commonly seen in paranoid personality disorder.
Personality disorders can cause individuals to perceive themselves in an altered or disillusioned light. For some, this can entail an increasingly diminishing sense of self, and self-loathing. For others, it could provoke arrogance and narcissism. In either case, the change in self-image is usually more than a passing phase, creating an enduring shift in their self-regard and interfering with daily activities and relationships.
Atypical Social Disposition
With the onset of a personality disorder, one’s typical modes of social interaction also tend to change. For example, someone with an avoidant personality disorder will tend to avoid social activities or meeting strangers, while someone with a histrionic personality disorder will seek more social interaction, and act emotional, dramatic, or even sexually provocative to gain attention.
Altered Productivity Levels
Changes in one’s mood, disposition, and behavior naturally alter productivity levels as well. In most cases, productivity decreases because most symptoms interrupt concentration and cause distraction to some degree. Enhanced impulsivity may further hamper productivity levels. In a few cases, however, restlessness and excess energy may provoke bouts of excessive work, temporarily increasing productivity levels. For example, someone with an obsessive-compulsive personality disorder may neglect friends or family because of excessive commitment to working on a project.
Change in Sexual Habits
Altered libido and sexual habits are also associated with personality disorders. People may experience loss of libido, resulting in a disinterest in intimate interactions. Alternately, they may suddenly become more sexually proactive, possibly indulging in irresponsible and excessive sexual activity, as often seen in those with borderline personality disorder. Both these tendencies can negatively impact existing personal relationships.
Personality disorders can increase the likelihood of substance abuse. In attempts to escape negative cycles, a person might turn to alcohol or drugs, hoping the effects can make them feel more “normal.” Some individuals may become addicted because of the medications prescribed to treat their illness, and in other cases, substance abuse may be a trigger for the onset of the condition. Regardless of the cause, substance abuse can exacerbate symptoms such as anxiety and depressed mood and interact poorly or dangerously with prescription medications.
Personality disorders can lead individuals to participate in dangerous activities or begin to self-harm. Contemplation of or attempted suicide is another possible symptom, especially when a personality disorder is associated with a mood disorder like depression or bipolar.
Altered Sleeping Habits
Sleeping too much or not enough are by-products of several personality disorders. In addition to oversleeping or insomnia, some individuals also experience changes in their sleeping habits, such as suddenly feeling wide awake and active at night and sluggish in the day, or difficulty sleeping in certain circumstances such as foreign surroundings or at specific temperatures.
Most personality disorders also produce physiological symptoms, often relating to nutrition and physical activity, including weight gain or weight loss. Aches and pains, fatigue, weakness, and general malaise are also common. Often, individuals experiencing these symptoms find they decrease once treatment for the psychological symptoms begins.