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What is the Common Factor in All Personality Disorders?

Your personality is a combination of your thoughts, behavior, and emotions. Each one of you has a different personality. Hence, your way of talking to people, reacting to situations, and thinking about certain things often differ from other people.

Some are shy. Some are very outspoken. Some prefer to be alone while others love to socialize. We have some preset notions for distinguishing between normal and not-so-normal personality traits.

A person who is kind, joyful, and communicates well is said to have a likable personality. On the other hand, a person who appears rude avoids interacting with people, and prefers to be alone is thought to have an unlikeable personality. This person might have a condition that makes him/her behave in a certain manner and prevents from having a normal healthy personality. Such a condition is called personality disorder.

Let’s shed some more light on the types of personality disorders and the common factors in all of them.

What are Personality Disorders?

Humans are vulnerable to multiple mental health problems, personality disorders are one of them.

A person with a personality disorder exhibits a pattern of behavior and thoughts different from what is considered normal. It is not only abnormal but also unhealthy, affecting a person’s well-being in multiple aspects like career, relationships, and social circle.

Causes of Personality Disorders

From genetics to environmental factors, multiple causes contribute to the development of personality disorders in individuals.

Here’s an evidence-backed walkthrough of each cause.

Childhood trauma

Children who have experienced traumatic incidents are more susceptible to personality disorders, finds a study. Instances of childhood abuse and witnessing domestic violence are linked with the development of schizotypal personality.

Verbal abuse

A study finds a correlation between enduring verbal abuse and suffering with personality disorders. According to this, children who were verbally abused had a 3 times greater likelihood of developing borderline, paranoid, or obsessive-compulsive personality disorder, in later stages of life.


Recent studies have shown that genetic factors influence the development of personality disorders. If a person has parents or siblings with a history of personality disorders, there’s a 30% to 80% probability of the person inheriting the disorder. Exposure to abusive and stressful environments can further increase the risk.

Brain abnormalities

Neuroimaging studies have found marked changes in the brain of a person with schizotypal personality disorder. The major affected regions were the amygdala, prefrontal cortex, basal ganglia, thalamus, and corpus callosum. Lower metabolism and decreased activation in these parts of the brain are linked to borderline personality disorder, according to another research.

brain abnormalities

These causes lead to the development of various types of personality disorders in a person, a brief account of which is given below.

Types of Personality Disorders

According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), there are 10 types of personality disorders. They are further classified into 3 clusters, namely A, B, and C.

types of PD

Cluster A Personality Disorders

The 3 types of personality disorders under this category have unconventional behavior as a common symptom. These include:

1. Schizoid Personality Disorder

Common factors associated with this personality disorder are:

  • Little to no desire to get intimate or form close relationships
  • Difficulty in finding happiness and pleasure
  • Rude and cold behavior
  • Avoiding situations that require interacting with people
  • Staying unaffected when criticized or praised

2. Schizotypal Personality Disorder

Common factors associated with this personality disorder are:

  • Living in a delusional fantasy world – where superpowers like telepathy and mind-reading exist
  • Visualizes unusual things or hears strange voices in the head
  • Having social anxiety
  • Feeling uncomfortable when surrounded by people
  • Difficulty in speaking sentences clearly during conversations

3. Paranoid Personality Disorder

Common factors associated with this personality disorder are:

  • Lack of trust in any person including family and friends
  • Doubtful about others’ loyalty
  • Constant feeling of being manipulated or lied to
  • Suspects partner or spouse cheating
  • Refrain from sharing any information, fearing that people will use it against them

Cluster B Personality Disorders

This category has 4 types of personality disorders with dramatic symptoms, including:

1. Histrionic Personality Disorder

Common factors associated with this personality disorder are:

  • Always seeking validation from people
  • High emotional instability
  • Forms strong opinions without any substance
  • Self-absorbed
  • Desperate for attention

2. Antisocial Personality Disorder

Common factors associated with this personality disorder are:

  • Lack of empathy towards others
  • Lack of patience
  • Triggered by small things
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Never owning mistakes, always blaming other people for it

3. Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Common factors associated with this personality disorder are:

  • Think highly of themselves
  • Look down on others
  • Exaggeration of one’s achievements
  • Envy people who they think are better than them
  • Exploiting other people for their selfish intentions

4. Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)

Common factors associated with this personality disorder are:

  • Fear of being left alone
  • Constant feelings of sadness
  • Low self-esteem
  • Frequent mood swings
  • Indulgence in unsafe sex, binge eating, or gambling

Cluster C Personality Disorders

Fear and anxiety are the prominent symptoms of 3 types of personality disorders belonging to this category. The types include:

1. Dependent Personality Disorder

Common factors associated with this personality disorder are:

  • Inability to make decisions without another person’s guidance
  • Finding it hard to say “no” or disagree with others
  • Feel helpless when alone
  • Low confidence or belief in one’s abilities
  • Needs constant reassurance for everything

2. Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD)

Common factors associated with this personality disorder are:

  • Seek perfection in everything they do
  • Hard-wired to do things as per the norms, rules, and orderly manner
  • Have the urge to control their situations and surroundings
  • Have strong beliefs and reluctance to change them
  • Eagerness to be occupied with work

3. Avoidant Personality Disorder

Common factors associated with this personality disorder are:

  • Shyness
  • Social isolation
  • Disinterested in trying new things
  • Too sensitive to handle rejections and criticism
  • A feeling of ‘not being enough”

If you or your loved ones display any of the symptoms frequently, it’s better to consult a mental health professional for an accurate diagnosis.

A mental health expert will analyze your symptoms as per the guidelines mentioned by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5-TR), published by the American Psychiatric Association. The diagnosis procedure is accompanied by a physical exam, neuropsychological testing, and mental health counseling.

What is the Common Factor in All Personality Disorders?

Several studies attempted to find the answer to — what is the common factor in all personality disorders?

It turns out, there isn’t any single common factor encompassing all personality disorders.

Instead, the following 4 factors are found to be common in all types of personality disorders.

1.  Negative feelings overpower

People with personality disorders experience increased occurrence and intensity of negative emotions, finds a study after assessing behavior of 281 participants.

When you’re diagnosed with PD, It’s hard to get happiness and pleasure from most of the things you do. As a result, you become short-tempered, get triggered by trivial things, develop a sense of envy towards people, and, in some cases, build a negative image of yourself, too.

2.  Unstable emotions

You either feel no emotions or too many emotions at once. Your feelings keep swinging between the two extremes.

Either way, you seem to have no control over your emotions. This can even take you into a state of committing self-harming and violent activities, confirms a study.

3.  Choosing isolation over interaction

Being among people, especially for too long, makes you anxious. Hence, you prefer staying indoors, spending time alone, and making choices that limit interacting with people.

You also find it hard to relate to people or communicate clearly with them. This affects both your personal and professional relationships.

4.  Disconnect from reality

One of the common factors of suffering from personality disorder is being delusional. You see and hear things that aren’t real but appear realistic to you.

As per the 2015 research, 2 out of 3 people with BPD experience dissociative state symptoms. A state where you start having false perceptions of your reality. This happens for a certain period, after which you return to your true surroundings but are unable to remember whatever occurred during that period. These states keep occurring over and over again.


Personality disorders can be of various types. They are genetically driven, a result of a person’s early-life experiences, physiological changes, or combined consequences of all three. Often, these have adverse effects on an individual’s life, such as:

  • Poor relationships
  • Professional challenges
  • Self-destructing actions
  • Regular anxiety and stress
  • Inability to function optimally

The bright side is, with proper guidance and diagnosis, such effects can be averted and the situation can be improved.

Therefore, it’s important to observe relevant symptoms in your friends and family. The earlier you seek help, the better it is.

FAQs: What is the common factor in all personality disorders

1. Can personality disorders be prevented?

None of the personality disorder types can be prevented but they can be effectively managed by seeking help from healthcare professionals. There are certain solutions to ensure living a high-performance and healthy life for people with personality disorders.

2. Can personality disorders be treated?

Currently, there are no FDA-approved medications for treating any type of personality disorder. However, seeking help from mental health professionals can help. Various therapies like Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), and psychotherapy along with antidepressant drugs are found to be effective for the treatment of personality disorders.

3. Who is more likely to have a personality disorder?

People having a history of abuse and traumatic events or suffering from anxiety and binge eating are more like to have personality disorders.

WHO has reported the probability of having PDs to be 6.1%. To be gender-specific, men are more prone to antisocial personality disorders while women are more susceptible to borderline, dependent, and histrionic personality disorders.

4. What do researchers think causes personality disorders?

Researchers, based on scientific studies, believe that personality disorders are a cumulative effect of an individual’s genetic factors, early-life incidents, and social environment.

5. Are personality disorders heritable?

Genetic epidemiologic studies confirm that all 10 types of personality disorders are moderately heritable. Borderline, narcissistic, and histrionic personality disorders are strongly heritable with respective probabilities of 69%, 77%, and 63%.

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