Diagnosis

If your doctor suspects you have a personality disorder, a diagnosis may be determined by:

  • Physical exam. The doctor may do a physical exam and ask in-depth questions about your health. In some cases, your symptoms may be linked to an underlying physical health problem. Your evaluation may include lab tests and a screening test for alcohol and drugs.
  • Psychiatric evaluation. This includes a discussion about your thoughts, feelings and behavior and may include a questionnaire to help pinpoint a diagnosis. With your permission, information from family members or others may be helpful.
  • Diagnostic criteria in the DSM-5. Your doctor may compare your symptoms to the criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), published by the American Psychiatric Association.

Diagnostic criteria

Each personality disorder has its own set of diagnostic criteria. However, according to the DSM-5, generally the diagnosis of a personality disorder includes long-term marked deviation from cultural expectations that leads to significant distress or impairment in at least two of these areas:

  • The way you perceive and interpret yourself, other people and events
  • The appropriateness of your emotional responses
  • How well you function when dealing with other people and in relationships
  • Whether you can control your impulses

Sometimes it can be difficult to determine the type of personality disorder, as some personality disorders share similar symptoms and more than one type may be present. Other disorders such as depression, anxiety or substance abuse may further complicate diagnosis. But it's worth the time and effort to get an accurate diagnosis so that you get appropriate treatment.

Sept. 23, 2016
References
  1. Personality disorders. In: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders DSM-5. 5th ed. Arlington, Va.: American Psychiatric Association; 2013. http://www.psychiatryonline.org. Accessed July 26, 2016.
  2. Overview of personality disorders. Merck Manual Professional Version. http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/psychiatric-disorders/personality-disorders/overview-of-personality-disorders. Accessed July 26, 2016.
  3. Get help with personality disorders. American Psychiatric Association. https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/personality-disorders/what-are-personality-disorders. Accessed July 26, 2016.
  4. Skodol A. Personality disorders. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed July 26, 2016.
  5. Tyrer P, et al. Personality disorder 1: Classification, assessment, prevalence, and effect of personality disorder. The Lancet. 2015;385:717.
  6. Newton-Howes G, et al. Personality disorder 2: Personality disorder across the life course. The Lancet. 2015;385:727.
  7. Bateman AW, et al. Personality disorder 3: Treatment of personality disorder. The Lancet. 2015;385:735.
  8. Palmer BA (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Aug. 17, 2016.