Childhood Trauma: The Five Main Personality Disorders.


Because childhood trauma has frequently been linked to the later development of borderline personality disorder (BPD), I have devoted a whole category of this blog to the analysis of that particular condition (see CATEGORIES section). However, as childhood trauma can also contribute to other personality disorders (for example, see the Collaborative Longitudinal Personality Disorders Study), I have decided it might be of help to outline the symptoms of those I have not yet covered.



I elaborate on these below; first, however, it is worth pointing out that it is estimated 14% of the population suffer from one of the personality disorders. Let’s look at them now:

1) PARANOID PERSONALITY DISORDER: it is thought that as many as one in twenty people could suffer from this disorder. Individuals who suffer from it find it very hard to trust others and view the world in general with suspicion. Some important features of the condition suffered by individuals include:

– a feeling others relentlessly victimize them
– a feeling of being unacceptable to society
– an expectation others will betray them / being on the lookout (perhaps obsessively) for signs of such betrayal
– feelings of intense jealousy (particularly in relation to partner)
– a marked tendency to hold onto resentments against others
– a marked tendency to be excessively critical of others

Often, such individuals will not seek professional help as they will frequently have a deep distrust of therapists and may, too, lack insight into their condition. Whilst environmental factors are at play in the development of this disorder, genes are also believed to have a significant role.

2) SCHIZOTYPAL PERSONALITY DISORDER: About 2% of the population are thought to suffer from this. Those affected suffer social anxiety, lack social skills and avoid close relationships. Also, they frequently have strange ideas and bizarre ways of behaving. Key features of this condition suffered by individuals include:

– bizarre fantasies and superstitions (e.g belief in telepathy)

– ‘ideas of reference’: this is the belief that events related to the sufferer when, in reality, they do not. For example, a sufferer might believe that a newspaper headline refers to him/her or that a TV news item is about him/her.

‘poverty of speech’: this refers to speech which is vague, confused and difficult to follow or make sense of (over-use of inappropriate and odd metaphors is not unusual).

– paranoia (see above)

– beliefs that parts of their body (e.g an arm) are being controlled by outside or supernatural forces

With this disorder, too, genetics are thought to play a significant role. It is linked to schizophrenia, a more serious condition, but does not necessarily lead to full-blown symptoms of this.

3) ANTISOCIAL PERSONALITY DISORDER: About 2% of the population is thought to suffer from this condition; it is much more common amongst males. It is also believed that up to 80% of the prison population, at any one time, comprises individuals with this condition. Individuals with the disorder lack empathy, feel little or no remorse (ie lack what is commonly referred to as a conscience), care little about the generally accepted rules of society and can frequently be violent. However, not all are violent and many can function, even excel, in society by capitalizing on personality traits such as ruthlessness, manipulativeness, and, not infrequently, a superficial charm, to become, for example, successful politicians or CEOs. Key features of the disorder include:

– frequent lying
– lack of feelings of guilt
– aggression
– irresponsible behaviours
– indifference to the suffering of others/lack of compassion
– irritability and hostility
– frequent impulsivity

Individuals with the disorder very frequently crave power and this ‘power lust’ will usually take precedence over forming long-term, meaningful relationships.

4) NARCISSISTIC PERSONALITY DISORDER: Some have speculated that this disorder is becoming more common in what is sometimes referred to as the current ‘ME-GENERATION’ or ‘X-FACTOR GENERATION’ (I never watch it. Honestly). At present, however, it is estimated that about 1% of the population suffer from it. Individuals who are affected by it tend to be what many might term ‘attention-seekers’. They will also tend to have a grandiose self-image, believing that they are somehow entitled to special treatment. Their enormous self-regard and sense of self-importance can lead to them behaving in a very arrogant and off-hand manner. Key features of the condition include:

– self-absorption/self-obsessiveness
– a sense of great specialness
– a grandiose self-view
– a lack of empathy for others
– frequent feelings of great envy or jealousy
– a predisposition towards the exploitation of others
– intense competitiveness

These individuals may, too, greatly overestimate their own talents, perhaps expecting to become an enormous success, rich and famous (X-FACTOR comes to mind again here, for some reason). Rather than engaging with others on a ‘normal’ emotional level, they may uniformly see others, essentially, as merely providing them with an audience.




As well as the experience of significant and protracted childhood trauma, various other factors may increase the individual’s risk of developing a personality disorder; I briefly examine these below:


Some individuals may inherit genes that predispose them to experience higher than average levels of fear, anxiety and aggression – such individuals may, therefore, be at increased risk of developing certain personality disorders.


Research suggests verbal abuse by parents may increase the risk of a person developing a personality disorder. 


There is some evidence to suggest that highly sensitive people may be at increased risk of developing a personality disorder – such individuals may be highly reactive to sensory information such as light, sound and touch.




David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE). is reader-supported. When you buy through links on this site, I may earn an affiliate commission.