Diagnostic Theory

In psychiatry we have nine defined personality disorders. These represent a stable set of behavioral patterns that are consistent across multiple environments and over time. Briefly, they are:

Paranoid: They may not be convinced the FBI is spying on their every move, but they aren’t ruling it out either. Basically they see the world as a dangerous, aggressive place.

Schizoid: The content loner, off on their own but happy to be so, generally pursuing solitary activities, especially collections of various sorts.

Schizotypal: Eccentric right up to the point of being psychotically delusional but not quite. They have magical beliefs and tend to come across as rather odd.

Antisocial: No, they don’t avoid parties. They have a disregard for rules, societal norms, and how you feel about what they’re doing. They tend to be career criminals.

Borderline: Not easy to deal with. They are prone to emotional outbursts, tend to see the world in absolutes, fear abandonment above all else, and can go a little psychotic when stressed.

Histrionic: Dramatic and generally provocative. They’re entertaining to have around, but I wouldn’t be alone with one if I were you…unless you’re single and feeling daring.

Narcissistic: Yes, they think they’re all that, and they’re dangerous if shown to be otherwise.

Avoidant: They also wind up as loners, but it has more to do with a fear of scrutiny and public embarrassment.

Dependent: They can’t make a decision and would really like you to make it for them.

Obsessive Compulsive: No, they don’t wash their hands 100 times a day. This group is the epitome of anal retentive, liking things to be in order, parallel, perfectly right. They don’t delegate well and can be overly concerned with right and wrong.

The fun part of knowing these diagnoses ( for full criteria) is that you can diagnose your friends and family. Also, these represent stable, realistic, and common archetypes of human behavior upon which to base characters. You don’t have to make someone exactly fit a diagnosis, cause real people rarely fit exactly either, And you don’t have to keep a character in that role for a whole story (remember the whole dynamic vs static character thing from Eng lit). Deciding on a character’s makeup and underlying psychology will help you keep them consistent, cause nothing kills a story more than plot-convenient behavior that defies a character’s previously described idiom. It also helps the story to feel real when what goes on manages to ring true or remind the reader of things they’ve noticed in real life.

17 comments Posted 2009-11-03 Author: THX 0477


  • Oy

    Interesting… I’ll keep it in mind for NaNoWriMo… I think I’m borderline.

  • Sam Ervin

    I know at least one person that fits every group except Paranoid.


  • Lone Writer

    OMG I’m Borderline.
    Especially since its NaNoWriMo.

  • Abstract

    This here’s a shout-out to all my fellow Ficlyteers who also are NaNoWriMo participants!

    “Thx”, THX! This is going to help me. Me, I’m several of these…can’t narrow it down to just one.

  • THX 0477

    Just a reminder before anyone goes and settles into a diagnosis, review the full criteria. A lot of us have traits and aspects of various personality disorders, it takes a pretty significant level of dysfunction to actually have the disorder.

  • DoItForScience

    I’ve got a pretty good idea of how I’m screwed up, I’ve been living in this skull for practically my entire life. Could be useful to know how other people are screwed up though. Where do addictive personalities fit?

  • THX 0477

    Addiction problems fall on Axis I of the diagnostic schema, along with depression or schizophrenia. Personality stuff is on Axis II along with pervasive developmental delays. An addictive personality has been proposed but was not included in the current diagnostic manual. A masochistic personality disorder was also proposed but not included.

  • Stovohobo

    Mm, Axis II, indeed, indeed…

    Thanks for sharing these. Should help with character traits.

  • Fyora Cartagan

    I could swear you’re missing a couple ’c’s in the second and third things? Or was it changed recently to avoid confusion and unintended connotations?

  • Fyora Cartagan

    For the record, I can think of all of those as applying to myself except for Antisocial and Paranoid. :D

  • Marli

    Well fellow ficly being in the same field as my collegue though not as esteemed I will vouch for the credibility of the above .Though I will also point out that there are many variations of the above in which is lowest on the bell curve who succeed in living amidst us without standing out.It is only as they creep up the bell curve that difficulties begin to manifest. I can see where Dr Tim is with this just helping you look at characterisation but Iam a believer in not labelling. A profile may fit many disorders but as long as you realise you have a trait you are pretty o.k. It is when we are out of touch with reality that a question may pop up in someones mind to say you are really in deep shit that it can be diagnosed as an aberrant behaviour and needs to be investigated. Marli now gets down off the soap box and scuttles away. Moral of the story…

  • Mr.Gabriel

    I’m for sure Obsessive Compulsive! Tend to freak out with things arent in order. But I guess not completely. So an extent, you could say. Like I just posted a comment and say it had mistakes and deleted it to make it better. Couldnt stand seeing it there all ugly.

    Its funny to, cause I actually dont like it when I have an ugly piece of paper. My friend makes fun of me all the time cause when she tried to give me paper and its ugly, she’d freak out saying that its just paper.

  • Render


  • Mighty-Joe Young (A.K.A Strong Coffee)(LoA)

    hey is it paranoia if it really is happening?

  • April Raines

    Curious to know – what DSM are they at now? I’ve got a IV on my shelf from when I was at University, but I know it’s been updated at least once since.

    I’ve got one character in my weblit serial who was intended to be a psychopath – as in I have Robert Hare’s ‘Without Conscience’ and was reading it for pointers – but I’m not sure he’s there. Antisocial & narcissistic, though, that works.

  • maximumride36

    yeah, i’m borderline for sure.

  • Reverend Speed

    Oh lord.


    A swift decent to madness.

    …Speaking of which: