Is it Possible to Have More Than One Personality Disorder?

Reader’s Question

I’ve seen a psychiatrist after 12 years of depression and emotional problems, eating disorders, self harm, agoraphobia and getting over childhood abuse. I’m 26. My psychiatrist said she thought I may have one or more personality disorders — namely Borderline, Histrionic and Narcissistic at the same time. Is that at all possible to have that many?

Psychologist’s Reply

A “personality disorder” is an enduring pattern of inner experience (mood, attitude, beliefs, values, etc.) and behavior (aggressiveness, instability, etc.) that is significantly different than those in their family or culture. These dysfunctional patterns are inflexible and intrusive into almost every aspect of the individual’s life. These patterns create significant problems in personal and emotional functioning and are often so severe that they lead to distress or impairment in all areas of functioning. (Source: DSM-IV).

Each personality disorder diagnosis has certain criteria or a list of symptoms that are needed for that diagnosis. It is possible for an individual to have a variety of symptoms that are shown in several different personality disorders. The three personality disorders you mention fall into “Cluster B” in psychiatric terms — considered to be personalities that are dramatic, emotional, and erratic. Some professionals view this as a “Mixed” personality disorder while others would consider you to have “Cluster B” personality disorder features.

The presence of a personality disorder is known to complicate treatment and recovery from conditions such as depression, agoraphobia, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and Eating Disorders. I would recommend discussing how your personality issues would complicate your recovery and ask for recommendations and guidance.

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