Personality Disorder Support Community

Personality Disorder Support Community

How personality disorders are diagnosed

Like other mental conditions, personality disorders are diagnosed based on certain criterion laid out in either the DSM IV or the ICD-10.

The DSM IV describes a personality disorder as "enduring pattern of inner experience and behaviour that deviates markedly from the expectation of the individual's culture, is pervasive and inflexible, has an onset in adolescence or early adulthood, is stable over time, and leads to distress or impairment."

The ICD-10 describes personality disorders as '‘deeply ingrained and enduring behaviour patterns, manifesting themselves as inflexible responses to a broad range of personal and social situations’. The behaviours represent ‘either extreme or significant deviations from the way the average individual in a given culture perceives, thinks, feels, and particularly relates to others’ and are ‘developmental conditions, which appear in childhood or adolescence and continue into adulthood’

Under the DSM and ICD 10, although there are some differences, generally personality disorders can be classified into different 'clusters'.

Cluster A (Odd or Eccentric Disorders)

  • Paranoid Personality Disorder

  • Schizoid Personality Disorder

  • Schizotypal Personality Disorder

Cluster B (Dramatic, Emotional or Erratic Disorders)

  • Antisocial Personality Disorder

  • Borderline Personality Disorder

  • Histrionic Personality Disorder

  • Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Cluster C (Anxious or Fearful Disorders)

  • Avoidant Personality Disorder

  • Dependent Personality Disorder

  • Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder

Appendix B: Criteria set for further studies

  • Depressive Personality Disorder

  • Passive Aggressive Personality Disorder

If you think you have a personality disorder, and you would like to be diagnosed, please bear in mind that you need to see a psychologist who will assess you to see if you meet certain criterion set out in either the DSM IV or the ICD-10.

For the ICD-10, there is a general criteria to be met for all personality disorders.

  1. There must be proof that the person's patterns of thought and behaviour differ or vary from the 'normal' and accepted way of behaving in more than one areas:

    1. The way you think, perceive, judge or interpret situations, other people's actions or events

    2. The way you feel in terms of intensity and whether it is appropriate to the situation.

    3. Whether you exercise restraint over your wants and need for satisfying yourself

    4. How you relate to others and how you handle relationships.

  2. The person's behaviour is rigid, inflexible, dysfunctional and adapts badly across most situations in his life.

  3. The person's life is badly affected by the previous criteria (B)

  4. The difference in behaviour to what is considered 'normal' has been around since late childhood or adolescence.

  5. The behaviours cannot be explained by other mental conditions.

  6. The behaviours cannot be explained by brain trauma or injury or dysfunction

A) to F) should be based on interviews with not only the person being assessed but also with other witnesses/family. It is best if as much history and data is given to the assessor/interviewer in order to give a correct diagnosis.

Social norms set within a specific cultural context should be taken into consideration when deciding if a person shows any traits of personality disorder.


Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders Fourth edition Text Revision (DSM-IV-TR) American Psychiatric Association (2000)

International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems 10th Revision (ICD-10)