These 5 personality disorders can be difficult to diagnose

These 5 personality disorders can be difficult to diagnose

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), one in five adults experience mental illness each year.

While some mental health conditions may be more familiar to us like depression, anxiety disorder and bipolar disorder, others are often considered more difficult to diagnose and likely to slip under the radar. These mental health conditions are known as personality disorders.

“Personality disorders are characterized by specific types of thinking or patterns of behavior that deviate from the expectations of culture,” says Dr. Rian Rowles, a psychiatrist with Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, Ill. “Those who suffer from personality disorders may find difficulty fitting into society or creating relationships, which can be painful.”

How can you know if someone is suffering from a personality disorder? Dr. Rowles shares five personality disorders that are common and might be difficult to spot.

  1. Avoidant Personality Disorder (APD)

“Those who suffer from APD are often shy and try to avoid social activities at all costs,” says Dr. Rowles. “They usually have anxiety about how they may be seen by others, are afraid of embarrassment or fear rejection.” Because we can probably all say we’ve feared rejection or embarrassment at some point, Dr. Rowles wants to point out that these individuals will experience these feelings continuously, so much so that it affects their quality of life.

“Someone who has APD is not the same as someone who is an introvert, although it might seem easy to confuse the two,” says Dr. Rowles. “Those who have APD inherently want to have relationships and friendships, but will make no effort to create them out of fear.”


  1. Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD)

We all probably know someone who can be a bit narcissistic, which is why you might assume NPD is so difficult to diagnose. According to Dr. Rowles, these individuals often have high opinions of themselves, low opinions of others and expect admiration. It’s likely that someone with NPD is always talking about their ideas or success and very rarely anything else. As you can see, this is quite different than a subtle brag every now and then.


  1. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

“Most people are probably familiar with this disorder, but think of extreme examples like touching a door knob a certain number of times,” says Dr. Rowles. “However, it’s common for people to misread those with OCD as simply being hard workers.”

The difference, Dr. Rowles explains, is those with OCD are usually only satisfied with perfection. This devotion to perfectionism may hinder their productivity and cause their relationships and relaxation time to suffer.


  1. Schizoid Personality Disorder (SPD)

Similar to APD, those who suffer from SPD typically isolate themselves from others. However, Dr. Rowles says the difference is that those with SPD don’t want relationships with others and usually prefer isolation.

“People with SPD will often spend their time doing things alone, but this doesn’t mean they aren’t content,” says Dr. Rowles. “They often don’t enjoy or find pleasure in the same activities most people do, which can make them seem like outsiders.”


  1. Antisocial Personality Disorder (APD)

Don’t let the name fool you – according to Dr. Rowles, those with APD are often charming and manipulative. The most telling trait that someone suffers from APD is a lack of remorse or guilt after doing something malicious or harmful.

A popular fictional character many people assume suffers from APD is Patrick Bateman from American Psycho. Bateman manipulates others frequently throughout the book to get what he wants and never once shows remorse.

Dr. Rowles wants to remind you that there are numerous resources available for those struggling with mental illness. A few of these resources are listed below.

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  1. Actually, people with NPD have a *low* opinion of themselves. That’s why they need to brag. People who genuinely feel good about themselves don’t need to inflate themselves. People with NPD need other people’s reaction in order to experience themselves. Otherwise they’re pretty much empty.

    As for SPD, why is it considered a disorder if the person him- or herself is content and doesn’t want social contact? If they’re happy with their life as a loner, what’s the problem?



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health enews Staff
health enews Staff

health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Aurora Health sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.