7 Disturbingly Common Personality Disorders That Are Hard to Identify

Updated on November 16, 2019
Kaitlyn Lo profile image

Kaitlyn has a background in psychology and writes articles that teach you how to lean on your body, mind, heart, and on those around you.

Many personality disorders can be hard to spot because their symptoms often mimic other mental disorders like anxiety and depression. They can also be overlooked as typical, if slightly eccentric, traits.

This can happen especially if someone is shy, sad, or a little particular about how they want things done. Since it’s common for many of us to have these feelings or characteristics to some degree, it can be hard to identify the point where ‘normal’ becomes disordered.

In general, these conditions happen in a continuum of severity. A mild form of a personality type can be perfectly normal, but when that personality type becomes more extreme and starts to disrupt daily life or disturb others, then it can be diagnosed as a personality disorder.

Here are seven common manifestations of such disorders that have surprisingly subtle symptoms and can easily be overlooked or misdiagnosed as some other mental disorder.

1. Avoidant Personality Disorder

This disorder is marked by feelings of anxiety around the fear of being embarrassed by interacting with other people, and the avoidance of social activities due to fear of rejection. Those with the avoidant personality disorder often have very few friends, are shy, and feel intensely lonely.

But because shyness and having only a few close friends are hallmarks of being introverted and can be perfectly healthy, the avoidant personality disorder can be easily overlooked. The main difference between introversion and this disorder is that those with the disorder will want to have close friends but will not try to make friendships. This inability to make the connections they’re yearning for will cause significant distress and emotional pain to the sufferer.

By freestocks.org. CC0 Creative Commons
By freestocks.org. CC0 Creative Commons | Source

Did You Know?

1 in 10 people has a personality disorder, but many are not severe.

2. Paranoid Personality Disorder

Being cautious and skeptical of people is normal and necessary for survival in society, but those with the paranoid personality disorder will be skeptical of situations and in relationships where it’s not normal to be suspicious.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, paranoid personality disorder affects around 2.3 to 4.4 percent of people, but it is also a difficult disorder to diagnose because it’s hard to distinguish between just having a slightly more cautious attitude towards the world and being genuinely paranoid. This is why paranoid thinking only becomes a diagnosable disorder when the paranoia is extreme and pervasive. Symptoms include being skeptical of friends and family as well as having a tendency to look for clues that may validate their distrust.

By Bahaa A. Shawqi. CC0 Creative Commons
By Bahaa A. Shawqi. CC0 Creative Commons | Source

3. Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder

According to the International OCPD Foundation, one in 100 people in the United States are affected by the obsessive-compulsive personality disorder, but it is still hard to diagnose because many of us have obsessive tendencies without having the full-blown affliction.

Those with OCPD are also often seen as very hard working and detail-oriented. They’re seen as being very devoted to their job and are dedicated to getting things right. In reality, those with OCPD wants to do things absolutely perfectly and are therefore often unwilling to allow other people to help because they won’t do it ‘perfectly.’

This extreme perfectionism is what distinguishes OCDP from people who just want to do something well or are a little particular about how they want certain tasks completed. OCPD will often prevent a task from being completed because the sufferer is so concerned with getting everything ‘perfect.’

By Oleg Magni. CC0 Creative Commons
By Oleg Magni. CC0 Creative Commons | Source

4. Dependent Personality Disorder

It’s perfectly healthy for us to be a little reliant on the people in your life. People with the dependent personality disorder can go undiagnosed for years because when they have people who are willing to meet their needs, there usually isn’t an issue.

But when the needs of a person with this issue aren’t met, their disorder becomes more apparent and will start to look more abnormal. The person may become distressed, burden others with their dependency, and struggle to function normally as they try to balance their need for dependence with periods of autonomy.

People with the dependent personality disorder often have difficulty making everyday decisions, struggle to disagree with others, often feel helpless by themselves, fears being abandoned, and goes to great lengths to find reassurance and support from others.

By Bahaa A. Shawqi. CC0 Creative Commons
By Bahaa A. Shawqi. CC0 Creative Commons | Source

Did You Know?

It is a myth that people with personality disorders are difficult to be around, are aggressive, depressed, and unable to lead productive or meaningful lives. On the contrary, many individuals diagnosed with personality disorders are sensitive, loyal, courageous, thoughtful, and intelligent people.

5. Narcissistic Personality Disorder

The narcissistic personality disorder is hard to diagnose because a certain degree of narcissism is seen as acceptable and reasonable in our society, especially with the advent of social media platforms like Instagram that allow us to indulge in our narcissistic urges.

But those with the narcissistic personality disorder isn’t just about posting selfies online or talking about themselves all the time. People with this illness will walk into a room and fill the space with their self-important presence while looking down on others. They’ll tell you stories of their successes and expect you to admire them. They’ll also feel uncomfortable and wronged if the spotlight turns away from them even for even a brief moment.

Since many people can seek attention and act a little narcissistic at times, a true narcissist can easily be overlooked.

By rawpixel.com. CC0 Creative Commons
By rawpixel.com. CC0 Creative Commons | Source

6. Schizoid Personality Disorder

People with the schizoid personality disorder are often confused with being depressed because they avoid close relationships and prefer doing things alone. They also have very little interest in doing things that bring them pleasure. The distinction from depression is that those with schizoid personality disorder are disengaged with life and apathetic, but lack the more expressive or apparent symptoms of depression.

By Min An. CC0 Creative Commons
By Min An. CC0 Creative Commons | Source

7. Antisocial Personality Disorder

The antisocial personality disorder can be obvious in some, yet discreet in others. An antisocial person may have a tendency to treat others poorly or act maliciously without guilt or regret, but they can also be charming to manipulate people.

Because people with this disorder can seem so nice, people may not realize they’re being manipulated, which will allow an antisocial individual to go unnoticed. Aside from being manipulative and having a lack of remorse, people with the antisocial personality disorder may exhibit a general disregard for rules and regulations, can be irritable, aggressive, impulsive, and may fail to learn or change from past experiences.

By Pixabay. CC0 Creative Commons
By Pixabay. CC0 Creative Commons | Source

Questions & Answers

    © 2018 KV Lo


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      • profile image


        6 months ago

        I like the content. These succinct briefs help distinguish among the sveral topics. However, the writing could use some work; case mismatching is rife in this article. If we choose to be writers we should hone the skills so we write right. Do the "write" thing.

      • Kaitlyn Lo profile imageAUTHOR

        KV Lo 

        21 months ago

        @Frank, That's a very good point!

      • profile image


        21 months ago

        A big part of it too I think is that these conditions are more researched now. In the past, people might have just said something like, "Oh, they are just a little weird". But learning more about yourself and things that challenge you is always a great thing!


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