What is a Personality Disorder?

A person’s personality, to some extent, is fluid. We don’t often change drastically, we are who we are, but a “healthy” personality is one that has an element of flexibility and can develop and adapt over life.

When someone’s personality traits are very fixed and rigid to the extent that it causes serious problems, particularly in their personal and professional relationships, they may have a personality disorder.

Understanding a Personality Disorder

You may be shy or outgoing or even both. There is no perfect or right personality. However, no matter what your personality is like, people who are flexible are going to have an easier time relating to people. This is an important aspect to remember and cultivate for your life.

We generally learn how to self improve and moderate ourselves accordingly to our relationships and experiences. You probably would not speak to a boss the same way you would speak to a best friend.  After a personal conflict you may learn how to integrate that experience and become a better friend or domestic partner to someone.  You may decide to volunteer in a war zone or travel, becoming exposed to other cultures, which in turn many affect your worldview, changing to some extent who you are. Therapy can also help a process of integration or change.

Someone with a personality disorder does not easily or naturally change or self-reflect in this way. Their personality traits are fixed and they often have a hard time taking accountability for how their behavior contributed to state of their personal and professional relationships. It is a hard for them to recognize or control their patterns.

Therapy is a beneficial way to help you becoming aware of your personality difficulties, which can improve your relationships. Click here to make an appointment with a Montreal counsellor, couples therapist or psychologist.

What is a Personality Disorder?

A “healthy” personality can develop and adapt over life. A disordered personality can cause conflict and isolation.

How and why does a personality disorder develop?

Someone with a personality disorder has a difficult time adapting their behavior or worldview to the cultural and environmental context they are in. Personality Disorders develop most commonly in adolescence but behaviors start as early as childhood. Most people with a personality disorder do not become aware of it until their early twenties or thirties.

The causes for a personality disorder are unknown but research has shown contributing factors to be: parenting, formative life experiences and some genetic factors.

Psychotherapy is a proven method for igniting positive personal change, assisting people to become aware and reflect on their personality traits.

Do I have a personality disorder?

You do not have to be diagnosed with a personality disorder to get help with your personal relationships. If you find yourself often in conflict with people or feeling alone and isolated, therapy is a wonderful and safe place for you to examine the patterns within your close relationships.

No relationship or person is perfect but having an awareness of how your personality and behavior are contributing to a relationship is important in maintaining enjoyable and healthy relationships. There is no shame in talking the time to self reflect on who you are as a person. Whether you are going through a particularly hard time or not, psychotherapy will contribute to your growth as a person.

The therapists at the Montreal Therapy Centre are caring and trained people who can help you to develop better communication and understanding within your relationships.

Click here for some helpful tips on communication and here for a short personality quiz and self-help check list for creating and maintaining healthy relationships.

You can make an appointment with a Montreal therapist, or register for online counselling here.

Types of personality disorders:

It is important to understand that you may feel that you relate to many of these different personality traits and behaviors. The main difference is that a personality trait is only a problem if it is rigid and fixed, continually causing your life and others around you to suffer.


  • General and ongoing pattern of disrespectful, aggressive and irresponsible behavior, showing little to no care for those around them
  • Lack of empathy for others needs & feelings
  • Persistent problems with authority figures
  • Pattern of lying, stealing, breaking the law, manipulating others for their own gain
  • Recurring problems with the law and violating the rights of others
  • Aggressive and often violent and abusive behavior
  • Impulsive and reckless behavior
  • Lack of remorse for behavior


  • Ongoing patterns of unstable relationships, troubles with self-image and impulsive reactive behavior and emotional distress
  • Black or white thinking that switches back and forth  (not able to see the grey area of life)
  • Volatile and intense expressions of emotion that are difficult for other people to handle (either loves or hates someone)
  • Intense fear of being alone or abandoned
  • Unstable or fragile self-image (not sure who they are, molds themselves to the people they are with)
  • Patterns of unstable & dramatic relationships
  • Risky and impulsive: sexual behavior, gambling, binge eating or problems with alcohol or drugs etc…
  • Shifting up and down moods with dramatic reactions to relationship stress
  • Manipulative or attention seeking behavior
  • Regular feelings of emptiness
  • Frequently acting out in anger
  • Paranoia often about other people
  • Often coincides with a history of early childhood sexual abuse & trauma
  • Suicide attempts or patterns of self-harm


  • Disruptive patterns of feeling hypersensitive, inadequate, and inhibited in social situations
  • Highly sensitive to criticism or rejection
  • Constant feelings of being inadequate, inferior or unattractive
  • Avoiding work that involves contact with people because of fear of being criticized or rejected.
  • Social inhibition and avoidance
  • Reluctance to take risks or try potentially embarrassing new activities: timidity and isolation, especially avoiding new activities or meeting strangers
  • Belief that they are ugly inferior and socially inept
  • Extreme shyness and passivity in social situations and personal relationships
  • Fearful of being disapproved, embarrassed or ridiculed


  • Lifelong patterns of needing others to take care of all aspects of one’s life and avoiding situations that require independence
  • Highly submissive and needy (for men it is more a pattern of being demanding)
  • Unable to make decisions on their own  (always seeking the advice of others for basic daily things)
  • Relying on others to take responsibility for important aspects of their life
  • Difficulty starting, doing or completing projects or tasks without the help or direction of others
  • Feelings of helplessness when alone (a belief that they can not take care of themselves)
  • Patterns of moving from one relationship directly into another (doesn’t matter who the person is as long as it is someone)
  • Going to great lengths to do things for others in order to get others to be supportive and nurturing to them
  • Persistent worrying about what will happen if they are ever alone


  • Persistent behavior patterns in which they seek to always be the centre of attention and display outgoing excessive emotions and sexuality
  • Habitually flirtatious and seductive (more for social gain than actual sex)
  • Often shallow displays of excessive emotion even when they are sincere
  • The need for attention and the spotlight alienates others around them
  • Preoccupied with having a perfected and planed physical appearance
  • A theatrical and dramatic way of speaking and telling stories that do not have substance or do not directly relate to the social context
  • Hot and cold behavior and emotions
  • Proclivity to think a relationship is more intimate and meaningful than the other person does.
  • Problems achieving mutually meaningful closeness to others


  • Patterns of excessive self-centered behavior, entitlement, inflated self-image and insensitivity to the needs and feelings of others
  • Disregard and lack of empathy for others needs and feelings
  • Continual over-exaggeration of personal accomplishments and self importance
  • Need for excessive recognition and flattery
  • Fascination with power, fame- being the best, associating only with the best
  • Unrealistic, rigid and damaging high expectations of others  (children, partners, friends)


  • Inability to admit that they are wrong or have faults  (they are always perfect in their own eyes)
  • Easily angered, frustrated and unforgiving about the faults of others
  • Exploitation of others to get what they want
  • Demeanor of arrogance
  • Envious of others accomplishments, status and possessions

Obsessive Compulsive

  • Preoccupation with control, perfectionism, rules and order, micromanagement of everything to the point of severe inefficiency


  • Life-long pattern of social isolation, lack of personal connections or interest in them
image symbolizing psychology of a personality disorder

A personality trait can be is rigid and fixed, causing you and those around you to suffer.

How do you treat or get help with a personality disorder?

Treatment for any personality disorder needs to be consistent and long term. The first step for someone in treatment is awareness and recognition of how their personality traits and behaviors are negatively affecting their lives and others. For effective treatment this needs to progress into a desire to change. A process of ongoing personal therapy is extremely helpful in achieving this.

Marriage counselling, family therapy or couples counselling is also a great way to start a process of helping a loved one to self-reflect on how their behavior is impacting the relationship.

It is important to note that someone with a personality disorder cannot be expected to change drastically or become a different person. However, therapy can help a person become aware of their patterns and help them to de-intensify the most troubling behaviors and maintain relationships by communicating better with those around them. If you or someone close to you is displaying the traits of one of the classifications of a personality disorder and is causing your life distress reach out and get help.

The Montreal Therapy Centre can point you to psychotherapist, counsellor or psychologist who are specifically trained in treating personality disorders. They are familiar with the difficulty and confusion living with a personality disorder can have on someone’s life as well as on those close to them.


  • A personality trait is a problem when it is consistently causes problems to your personal life or professional capacity.
  • You cannot change anyone other than yourself.
  • Diagnosis of a personality is not necessary for treatment or to get help establishing healthier patterns in your life.

We are happy to help you to find the right therapist and treatment plan. Click here to get make an initial appointment.