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How Are Personality Disorders Diagnosed? Here’s what you need to know



By: Marie Miguel

According to the National Institute of Mental Health or NIMH, 9.1% of individuals aged 18 or older in the United States live with a personality disorder of some kind. Although personality disorders are sometimes misunderstood, they are not uncommon, and they are treatable. Maybe, you’re looking into the possibility that you have a personality disorder, or perhaps you’re curious to learn more about personality disorders and how they’re diagnosed overall. So, how are personality disorders diagnosed, and where do you turn if you think that you have one?

About Personality Disorders

Personality disorders are a group of diagnosable mental health conditions. Every personality disorder has a unique set of criteria, and while they may share symptoms, they differ from one another. Personality disorders are typically grouped into three main clusters. These include Cluster A personality disorders, Cluster B personality disorders, and Cluster C personality disorders.

Cluster A personality disorders include:

  • Paranoid Personality Disorder
  • Schizoid Personality Disorder
  • Schizotypal Personality Disorder

Cluster B personality disorders include:

  • Antisocial Personality Disorder
  • Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)
  • Histrionic Personality Disorder
  • Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD)

Cluster C personality disorders include:

  • Avoidant Personality Disorder
  • Dependent Personality Disorder
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD)

Someone may also receive a diagnosis under the category of personality disorders like Other Specified Personality Disorder or Unspecified Personality Disorder on unique or specific occasions.

How Are Personality Disorders Diagnosed?

Personality disorders are diagnosed using the criteria in the most recent version of the DSM or diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders. Currently, this is the DSM-5. To get diagnosed with a personality disorder or any other mental health condition, you must see a provider who is qualified to diagnose mental disorders, such as a psychiatrist. A provider who is qualified to diagnose mental health conditions will look at an individual’s patterns of behavior, functioning, and symptoms when diagnosing a personality disorder. Learning about personality disorders can help you obtain a greater understanding of these conditions, and if you have a personality disorder, it may help you gain insight into your diagnosis, but it is never a replacement for a professional diagnosis or professional care. Again, symptoms of different disorders may overlap with one another, which is only one of many reasons why a professional diagnosis can be so crucial. Often, you’ll be asked a series of questions about your patterns and experiences as part of the diagnostic process. Some people may get diagnosed in a private practice setting, where other people may get diagnosed in a hospital or another setting, in which case the diagnostic process might look a little bit different.

Treatment For Personality Disorders 

Living with a personality disorder is nothing to be ashamed of. Therapy is often a game-changer for many people living with personality disorders and other mental health conditions, and the research is there to prove it. Personality disorders may be addressed using methods of care such as cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy, psychodynamic therapy, or psychoeducation. It’s crucial to note that different treatments work for different people, even if two people are presented with the same diagnosis. If the first form of therapy you receive isn’t the right fit, or if the first therapist you see isn’t the right fit, it is always possible to try something new in the future. You do not have to have a diagnosis to see a therapist, though it may help with insurance coverage for your sessions if applicable, and a diagnosis can help you find the right care.

Find A Therapist 

Therapy is not just for those living with personality disorders and other mental health conditions. You may also receive therapy for life stressors, difficulty in interpersonal relationships, familial issues, grief, or anything else that’s going on in your life. If you don’t have a therapist, there are various ways to go about finding one. You can ask your doctor for a referral, contact your insurance company to see who they cover, use an online directory, search the web, or utilize an online therapy platform like BetterHelp. BetterHelp is not a form of crisis care. All of the providers on the BetterHelp platform are licensed, and it’s often more affordable than traditional in-person counseling or therapy is in the absence of insurance. Regardless of how you find a provider, you deserve to get the support that you need, so don’t hesitate to reach out and start the process today.


Marie Miguel Biography

Marie Miguel has been a writing and research expert for nearly a decade, covering a variety of health- related topics. Currently, she is contributing to the expansion and growth of a free online mental health resource with With an interest and dedication to addressing stigmas associated with mental health, she continues to specifically target subjects related to anxiety and depression.

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