Top 100 Traits of Personality-Disordered Individuals
Every relationship between a Personality-Disordered Individual and a Non Personality-Disordered Individual is as unique as the DNA of the people involved. Nevertheless, there are some common behavior patterns.
The list below contains descriptions of some of the more common traits of people who suffer from personality disorders, as observed by family members and partners. Examples are given of each trait, with descriptions of what it feels like to be caught in the crossfire.
Please note: these descriptions are not intended for diagnosis. Refer to the DSM Criteria for Personality Disorders for clinical diagnostic criteria. No one person exhibits all of the traits and the presence of one or more of these traits is not evidence of a personality disorder. Read our disclaimer for more info.
One common criticism of Out of the FOG is that this list of traits seems so "normal" - more like traits of an unpleasant person than traits of a mentally ill person. This is no accident. Personality disordered people are normal people. Approximately 1 in 11 people meet the diagnostic criteria for having a personality disorder. Personality-disordered people don't fit the stereotypical models for people with mental illnesses but their behaviors can be just as destructive. These descriptions are offered in the hope that non-personality-disordered family members, caregivers and loved-ones might recognize some similarities to their own situation and discover that they are not alone.
Top 100 Traits & Behaviors of Personality-Disordered Individuals
Abusive Cycle - This is the name for the ongoing rotation between destructive and constructive behavior which is typical of many dysfunctional relationships and families.
Alienation - The act of cutting off or interfering with an individual's relationships with others.
"Always" and "Never" Statements - "Always" and "Never" Statements are declarations containing the words "always" or "never". They are commonly used but rarely true.
Anger - People who suffer from personality disorders often feel a sense of unresolved anger and a heightened or exaggerated perception that they have been wronged, invalidated, neglected or abused.
Avoidance - The practice of withdrawing from relationships with other people as a defensive measure to reduce the risk of rejection, accountability, criticism or exposure.
Baiting - A provocative act used to solicit an angry, aggressive or emotional response from another individual.
Blaming - The practice of identifying a person or people responsible for creating a problem, rather than identifying ways of dealing with the problem.
Bullying - Any systematic action of hurting a person from a position of relative physical, social, economic or emotional strength.
Catastrophizing - The habit of automatically assuming a "worst case scenario" and inappropriately characterizing minor or moderate problems or issues as catastrophic events.
Chaos Manufacture - Unnecessarily creating or maintaining an environment of risk, destruction, confusion or mess.
Cheating - Sharing a romantic or intimate relationship with somebody when you are already committed to a monogamous relationship with someone else.
Chronic Broken Promises - Repeatedly making and then breaking commitments and promises is a common trait among people who suffer from personality disorders.
Circular Conversations - Arguments which go on almost endlessly, repeating the same patterns with no resolution.
Confirmation Bias - The tendency to pay more attention to things which reinforce your beliefs than to things which contradict them.
"Control-Me" Syndrome - This describes a tendency which some people have to foster relationships with people who have a controlling narcissistic, antisocial or "acting-out" nature.
Cruelty to Animals - Acts of Cruelty to Animals have been statistically discovered to occur more often in people who suffer from personality disorders than in the general population.
Denial - Believing or imagining that some painful or traumatic circumstance, event or memory does not exist or did not happen.
Dependency - An inappropriate and chronic reliance by an adult individual on another individual for their health, subsistence, decision making or personal and emotional well-being.
Depression - When you feel sadder than you think you should, for longer than you think you should - but still can't seem to break out of it - that's depression. People who suffer from personality disorders are often also diagnosed with depression resulting from mistreatment at the hands of others, low self-worth and the results of their own poor choices.
Dissociation- Dissociation is a psychological term used to describe a mental departure from reality.
Domestic Theft - Consuming or taking control of a resource or asset belonging to (or shared with) a family member, partner or spouse without first obtaining their approval.
Emotional Abuse - Any pattern of behavior directed at one individual by another which promotes in them a destructive sense of Fear, Obligation or Guilt (FOG).
Emotional Blackmail - A system of threats and punishments used in an attempt to control someone’s behaviors.
Engulfment - An unhealthy and overwhelming level of attention and dependency on another person, which comes from imagining or believing one exists only within the context of that relationship.
False Accusations - Patterns of unwarranted or exaggerated criticism directed towards someone else.
Favoritism and Scapegoating - Systematically giving a dysfunctional amount of preferential positive or negative treatment to one individual among a family group of peers.
Fear of Abandonment - An irrational belief that one is imminent danger of being personally rejected, discarded or replaced.
Feelings of Emptiness - An acute, chronic sense that daily life has little worth or significance, leading to an impulsive appetite for strong physical sensations and dramatic relationship experiences.
Frivolous Litigation - The use of unmerited legal proceedings to hurt, harass or gain an economic advantage over an individual or organization.
Gaslighting - The practice of brainwashing or convincing a mentally healthy individual that they are going insane or that their understanding of reality is mistaken or false. The term “Gaslighting” is based on the 1944 MGM movie “Gaslight”.
Grooming - Grooming is the predatory act of maneuvering another individual into a position that makes them more isolated, dependent, likely to trust, and more vulnerable to abusive behavior.
Harassment - Any sustained or chronic pattern of unwelcome behavior by one individual towards another.
High and Low-Functioning - A High-Functioning Personality-Disordered Individual is one who is able to conceal their dysfunctional behavior in certain public settings and maintain a positive public or professional profile while exposing their negative traits to family members behind closed doors. A Low-Functioning Personality-Disordered Individual is one who is unable to conceal their dysfunctional behavior from public view or maintain a positive public or professional profile.
Hoarding - Accumulating items to an extent that it becomes detrimental to quality of lifestyle, comfort, security or hygiene.
Holiday Triggers - Mood Swings in Personality-Disordered individuals are often triggered or amplified by emotional events such as family holidays, significant anniversaries and events which trigger emotional memories.
Hoovers & Hoovering - A Hoover is a metaphor taken from the popular brand of vacuum cleaners, to describe how an abuse victim trying to assert their own rights by leaving or limiting contact in a dysfunctional relationship, gets “sucked back in” when the perpetrator temporarily exhibits improved or desirable behavior.
Hyper Vigilance - Maintaining an unhealthy level of interest in the behaviors, comments, thoughts and interests of others.
Hysteria - An excessive reaction to a threat, bad news or disappointment, which diverts attention away from the problem and towards the person who is having the reaction.
Imposed Isolation - Actions taken by an abuser to discourage a victim from developing supportive, external relationships.
Impulsiveness - The tendency to act or speak based on current feelings rather than logical reasoning.
Infantilization - Treating a child as if they are much younger than their actual age.
Intimidation - Any form of veiled, hidden, indirect or non-verbal threat.
Invalidation - The creation or promotion of an environment which encourages an individual to believe that their thoughts, beliefs, values or physical presence are inferior, flawed, problematic or worthless.
Lack of Conscience - Individuals who suffer from personality disorders are often preoccupied with their own agendas, sometimes to the exclusion of the needs and concerns of others. This is sometimes interpreted by others as a lack of moral conscience.
Lack of Object Constancy - A symptom of some personality disorders, Lack of Object Constancy is an inability to remember that people or objects are consistent, trustworthy and reliable, especially when they are out of your immediate field of vision. Object constancy is a developmental skill which most children do not develop until two or three years of age.
Low Self-Esteem - A common term used to describe a group of negatively-distorted self-views which are inconsistent with reality.
Manipulation - The practice of baiting an individual or group of individuals into a certain response or reaction pattern for the purpose of achieving a hidden personal goal.
Masking - Covering up one's own natural outward appearance, mannerisms and speech in dramatic and inconsistent ways depending on the situation.
Mirroring - Imitating or copying another person's characteristics, behaviors or traits.
Moments of Clarity - Spontaneous, temporary periods when a person with a personality disorder is able to see beyond their own world view and can acknowledge and begin to make amends for their dysfunctional behavior.
Mood Swings - Unpredictable, rapid, dramatic emotional cycles which cannot be readily explained by changes in external circumstances.
Munchausen's and Munchausen by Proxy Syndrome (MBPS) - Munchausen's Syndrome is a disorder in which an individual repeatedly fakes or exaggerates their own illness or medical symptoms in order to manipulate the attentions of medical professionals or caregivers. Munchausen by Proxy Syndrome (MBPS) is a similar syndrome in which another individual, commonly a child, is substituted for the patient and made the focus of inappropriate medical attention.
Name-Calling - A form of Verbal Abuse which people sometimes indulge in when their emotional thought processes override their rational thought processes.
Narcissism - This term describes a set of behaviors characterized by a pattern of grandiosity, self-centered focus, need for admiration, self-serving attitude and a lack of empathy or consideration for others.
Neglect - A passive form of abuse in which the physical or emotional needs of a dependent are disregarded or ignored by the person responsible for them.
Normalizing - Normalizing is a tactic used to desensitize an individual to abusive, coercive or inappropriate behaviors. In essence, normalizing is the manipulation of another human being to get them to agree to, or accept something that is in conflict with the law, social norms or their own basic code of behavior.
No-Win Scenarios - No-Win Scenarios and Lose-Lose Scenarios are situations commonly created by people who suffer from personality disorders where they present two bad options to someone close to them and pressure them into choosing between the two. This usually leaves the non-personality-disordered person with a 'damned if I do and damned if I don't' feeling.
Objectification - The practice of treating a person or a group of people like an object.
Obsessive-Compulsive Behavior - An inflexible adherence to arbitrary rules and systems, or an illogical adherence to cleanliness and orderly structure.
Panic Attacks - Short intense episodes of fear or anxiety, often accompanied by physical symptoms, such as hyperventilating, shaking, sweating and chills.
Parental Alienation Syndrome - A term used to describe the process by which one parent, typically divorced or separated from the other biological parent, uses their influence to make a child believe that the other parent is bad, evil or worthless.
Parentification - A form of role reversal, in which a child of a personality-disordered parent is inappropriately given the role of meeting the emotional or physical needs of the parent or of the other children.
Passive-Aggressive Behavior - The expression of negative feelings, resentment, and aggression in an unassertive, passive way (for example, through procrastination and stubbornness).
Pathological Lying - Persistent deception by an individual to serve their own interests and needs with little or no regard to the needs and concerns of others. A pathological liar is a person who habitually lies to serve their own needs.
Perfectionism - The maladaptive practice of holding oneself or others to an unrealistic, unattainable or unsustainable standard of organization, order, or accomplishment in one particular area of living, while sometimes neglecting common standards of organization, order or accomplishment in other areas of living.
Physical Abuse - Any form of voluntary behavior by one individual which inflicts pain, disease or discomfort on another, or deprives them of necessary health, nutrition and comfort.
Projection - The act of attributing one's own feelings or traits to another person and imagining or believing that the other person has those same feelings or traits.
Proxy Recruitment - A way of controlling or abusing another person by manipulating other people into unwittingly backing you up, speaking for you or "doing your dirty work" for you.
Push-Pull - A chronic pattern of sabotaging and re-establishing closeness in a relationship without appropriate cause or reason.
Riding the Emotional Elevator - The Emotional Elevator is a way of describing how people who suffer from personality disorders and those closest to them sometimes take a fast track down to different levels of emotional maturity.
Sabotage - The spontaneous disruption of calm or status quo in order to serve a personal interest, provoke a conflict or draw attention.
Scapegoating - Singling out an individual or group for unmerited negative treatment or blame.
Selective Competence - The practice of demonstrating different levels of intelligence or ability depending on the situation or environment.
Self-Aggrandizement - A pattern of pompous behavior, boasting, narcissism or competitiveness designed to create an appearance of superiority.
Self-Harm - Self Harm, also known as self-mutilation, self-injury or self-abuse is any form of deliberate, premeditated injury inflicted on oneself, common among adolescents and among people who suffer from Borderline Personality Disorder. The most common forms are cutting and poisoning/overdosing.
Self-Loathing - An extreme hatred of one's own self, actions or one's ethnic or demographic background.
Self-Victimization - Self-Victimization or "playing the victim" is the act of casting oneself as a victim in order to control others by soliciting a sympathetic response from them or diverting their attention away from abusive behavior.
Sense of Entitlement - An unrealistic, unmerited or inappropriate expectation of favorable living conditions and favorable treatment at the hands of others.
Sexual Objectification - The act of viewing another individual in terms of their sexual usefulness or attractiveness rather than pursuing or engaging in a quality of personal relationship with them.
Shaming - The difference between blaming and shaming is that in blaming someone tells you that you did something bad, in shaming someone tells you that you are something bad.
Silent Treatment - A passive-aggressive form of emotional abuse in which displeasure, disapproval and contempt is exhibited through nonverbal gestures while maintaining verbal silence.
Situational Ethics - A philosophy which promotes the idea that, when dealing with a crisis, the end justifies the means and that a rigid interpretation of rules and laws can be set aside if a greater good or lesser evil is served by doing so.
Sleep Deprivation - The practice of routinely interrupting, impeding or restricting another person's sleep cycle.
Splitting - The practice of regarding people and situations as either completely "good" or completely "bad".
Stalking - Any pervasive and unwelcome pattern of pursuing contact with another individual.
Stunted Emotional Growth - Reluctance or inability to learn from mistakes, work on self-improvement or develop more effective coping strategies.
Targeted Humor, Mocking and Sarcasm - Targeted Humor is any sustained pattern of joking, sarcasm or mockery which is designed to reduce another individual's reputation in their own eyes or in the eyes of others.
Testing - Repeatedly forcing another individual to demonstrate or prove their love or commitment to a relationship.
Thought Policing - A process of interrogation or attempt to control another individual's thoughts or feelings.
Threats - Inappropriate, intentional warnings of destructive actions or consequences.
Triangulation - Gaining an advantage over perceived rivals by manipulating them into conflicts with each other.
Triggering -Small, insignificant or minor actions, statements or events that produce a dramatic or inappropriate response.
Tunnel Vision - A tendency to focus on a single concern, while neglecting or ignoring other important priorities.
Verbal Abuse - Any kind of repeated pattern of inappropriate, derogatory or threatening speech directed at one individual by another.
For More Information & Support...
If you suspect you may have a family member or loved-one who suffers from a personality disorder, we encourage you to learn all you can and surround yourself with support as you learn how to cope.
Five years ago, a photographer, an engineer, a writer, an office manager, a grandmother, a graphic artist, a law student, a husband, a librarian, and a stained-glass artisan came together to connect a diverse, isolated population in search of information, support, and growth as they strive to cope with a family members, spouses or partners who suffer from a personality disorder. Since its launch on November 1, 2007, Out Of The FOG has grown from a fledgling discussion group with 10 participants, to a vibrant community of over 4000 registered members world-wide, with new members joining every day.
On August 31 2012, the Out of the FOG Support Forum crossed two significant milestones - 100,000 member posts and 10,000 topics. Thanks to all who participate and contribute to the OOTF support board, which is a unique source of support to non-personality-disordered individuals all over the world.