What increases my risk for personality disorders?

The exact causes for development of personality disorders are not known. However, certain factors are believed to increase risk. These factors are:

  • -physical, verbal, or sexual abuse as a child
  • divorce of parents or the death of a parent during childhood
  • family members with mental illness or history of a personality disorder
  • a volatile or erratic family life as a child
  • having been diagnosed with a conduct disorder as a child.
Dr. Marni Feuerman, LCSW, MFT
Marriage & Family Therapy

Personality disorders often begin in childhood and last through adulthood. There is reluctance to diagnose personality disorders in a child, though, because the patterns of behavior and thinking could simply reflect adolescent experimentation or temporary developmental phases. Although the exact cause of personality disorders is not known, certain factors seem to increase the risk of developing or triggering personality disorders.  These may include:


  • A family history of personality disorders or other mental illness


  • Low socioeconomic status


  • Verbal, physical or sexual abuse during childhood


  • Neglect during childhood


  • An unstable or chaotic family life during childhood


  • Being diagnosed with childhood conduct disorder


  • Loss of parents through death or traumatic divorce during childhood

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.