Personality Patterns

Posted by Graham Wheeler on Saturday, July 14, 2018

The last post in this series covered the Five Factor Model of personality. In this post we’ll dig into personality patterns that people can exhibit. Everyone has some combination of the five factors, but how does that combination manifest as a personality type?

There are many different models of personality types, but one used in psychology and psychoanalysis is the categorization in the DSM - the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. This is a somewhat controversial publication that categorizes a number of maladaptive personality categories, and there are schools of thought in psychoanalysis who use similar categories in adaptive forms to describe similar personality types in less extreme forms; the most common forms here are captured in the Psychodynamic Diagnostic Manual.

We’re treading on some slippery ground here in my opinion, but as long as you consider this as just a model it can offer some useful aggregate insights.

The Psychodynamic Diagnostic Manual describes these broad patterns or syndromes:

  • depressive
  • dependent
  • anxious–avoidant/phobic
  • obsessive-compulsive
  • schizoid
  • somatizing
  • hysteric–histrionic
  • narcissistic
  • paranoid
  • psychopathic
  • sadistic
  • borderline

The PDM also describes different ways in which these can manifest:

  • healthy
  • neurotic (rigid)
  • borderline (poorly regulated)
  • psychotic (disconnected from reality)

The DSM, on the other hand, describes these as the top 10 maladaptive patterns or personality disorders:

As you can see, there is a close connection between the syndromes and the disorders; it’s all a matter of degree.

So what are the syndromes, how do they relate to Five Factor, and what other ways can you identify these types? I’ll try to explain these as well as I can over several posts. Disclaimer: I am not a psychologist, just an interested layperson.

My descriptions below are of the maladaptive forms but bear in mind this is a matter of degree and each of these types can have healthier manifestations as well.

Depressive Personalities

People with depressive personalities typically hold themselves up to unrealistic standards and engage in self-criticism and self-blame when things go wrong, which they frequently do due to the unrealistic expectations. They may fear rejection or have feelings of abandonment, and often have feelings of inadequacy, guilt or shame. They may idealize others but fear that relationships will inevitably end in rejection. The periods of self-blame and shame may alternate with states of high arousal and elevated energy and mood (manic-depressive).

Note that while some depressive people may have clinical depression, depression and depressive personalities are not the same thing and people with other personality types also can suffer from depression.

Dependent Personalities

People with dependent personalities are typically submissive and clinging. They may be caught in unhealthy relationships but be unable to leave them. They tend to have low self-worth except through the validation of others, and be passive and easily influenced by others. In the absence of other relationships they may seek attention by acting out or by exhibiting and seeking attention for psychosomatic illnesses. They may try to please others to be liked while resenting the others at the same time.

Anxious–avoidant/phobic Personalities

People with avoidant or phobic personalities and insecure and afraid of criticism, and socially inhibited. They have feelings of inferiority, are undecisive, and are often out-of-touch with their feelings, so instead of being able to control anxiety it is more likely to control them. They prefer safety and avoid risk. In their relations with others they tend to see others as either threats or protection.

Obsessive-compulsive Personalities

Obsessive-compulsive people like their world to be orderly. They can be perfectionists and workaholics. They prefer to keep their emotions under tight control and instead rationalize about the behavior of people. They like rules and schedules. They may obsess over systems of “productivity”. They may be short-tempered and irritable with others who threaten the strict regimentation of their world, and try to control others. When asked what they “feel” they’ll instead say what they “think”. Underlying their desire for order is a fear of loss of control.

Schizoid/Schizotypal Personalities

Schizoid people are often loners who are comfortable with themselves and have limited emotional expression, but internally may yearn for and fantasize about close relationships with others. They can be sensitive and shy and easily overstimulated resulting in withdrawal. They may prefer fantasy worlds to getting involved in the real world.

Schizotypal are more extreme; they may be very uncomfortable with close relationships and lack social skills to the point they are considered “weirdos”.

Hysteric–histrionic Personalities

Histrionic people exhibit excessive emotion and attention-seeking behaviors. They are often highly sexualized, flamboyant and seductive. They can be seen as ‘drama queens’ or exhibitionists. They often have gender-envy.

Narcissistic Personalities

Narcissistic people have a deep need for constant affirmation and admiration and a lack of empathy for others, stemming from an inner emptiness. At the low end of the scale narcissists may be very successful and charismatic people with some problems with intimacy, but at the more extreme end they can be highly destructive, arrogant, entitled and immoral. Narcissists who do not manage to feed their inner emptiness with wealth and status may resort to fantasizing about these things while being depressed and envious of others who have these. Narcissists often greatly over-estimate their own abilities and intelligence, and are seen by others as vain or prideful.

Narcissists’ relationships with others tend to operate in a cycle of idealization and devaluing. They will idealize others to create a “relationship” so that they get reciprocal affirmation, but once they get the affirmation it loses its value and they then devalue the other to make themselves feel superior.

Paranoid Personalities

Paranoid people are distrustful and suspicious of others. They see the world as hostile and full of danger. They may defend themselves by attacking others through humiliation and contempt, and can exhibit rage and aggression. They can pick up on small slights as evidence of ill-intent and are often described as being “hyper-sensitive” or easily offended.

Psychopathic Personalities

Psychopaths are contemptuous of the rights of others, and manipulative. They are often aggressive. They believe others to be selfish and manipulative or weak, and so feel justified in acting that way themselves. They lack remorse and have poor behavior control.

Borderline Personalities

Borderline personalities may have a weak connection with reality and lack all perspective. They may engage in self-destructive behavior like self-mutilation or attempts at or threats of suicide. These can ironically be to make them feel more “alive”, but may just as easily be to manipulate others. They see others as one-dimensional. They can lack impulse control and be aggressive. They tend to have intense feelings of rage, shame or fear. Their relationships and emotions are unstable.

What’s Next?

In follow on posts I’ll look at the connection between 5-factor traits and personality types (inasmuch as this has been researched), how psychoanalysts evaluate people’s personality types, and just what Cambridge Analytica did with all that Facebook data!