Personality Disorders with Famous Examples from TV & History

Personality Disorders are rigid ways of thinking and behaving that differ greatly from the norm, cause distress and hinder function. These individuals don’t think they have a disorder so they rarely seek out help and have low compliance with suggested therapy. This lack of insight is why diagnosing and treating these disorders can be difficulty. These disorders develop early in life and primarily affect a person’s relationships. We can all identify somewhat with some of these disorders, but don’t go diagnosing yourself or your friends. Having a disorder is much more extreme than having mild characteristics of these disorders (AKA personality trait not a personality disorder).


In different text books and study aids you will usually see these disorders grouped together in clusters called A, B and C. I won’t use these clusters in my materials, because I don’t find them that helpful and you will never be asked what cluster a patient is in on Step 1. Only learn the clusters if it helps organize things, but if it doesn’t help don’t feel like you need to know it.


Cluster A

  • Schizoid
  • Schizotypal
  • Paranoid

Cluster B

  • Borderline
  • Histrionic
  • Narcissistic
  • Antisocial

Cluster C

  • Obsessive Compulsive
  • Avoidant
  • Dependent


DISCLAIMER: I believe the best way to memorize these disorders are by using celebrities, historical figures and TV or movie characters as examples. However, I want to stress that I’m not trying to make light of or make fun of these conditions which can be debilitating for people who have them. I’m just trying to help people memorize these things better and to make this content a little more interesting. And when I mention real people I do so completely based on speculation and I have no actual knowledge of how these people are in real life.


Schizoid Personality Disorder: These people are super introverted. They have no desire to have friends and voluntarily choose to be socially isolated. They often day dream a lot, have a limited range of emotions and are largely apathetic. These individuals may also be uninterested in sexual contact with others. Examples include Squidward from Sponge Bob Squire Pants and Dexter Morgan from Dexter (just his personality not the serial killing).


Schizotypal Personality Disorder: These people are extremely nerdy & awkward. Magical thinking, such as paranormal or superstitious beliefs, is common. They often have odd speech, dress, and mannerisms. They usually have voluntary social withdrawal similar to people who are Schizoid. So you can think of Schizotypal as Schizoid plus magical thinking and odd behavior. Examples include Kramer from Seinfeld, Doc Brown from Back to the Future and the characters on the Big Bang Theory.


Paranoid Personality Disorder: These people are almost always suspicious of others motives and don’t trust other people. They feel like everyone is out to get them and get aggravated about minor things. Examples include Richard Nixon, Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin & Saddam Hussein. You can also think of the stereotypical jealous husband who constantly accuses his wife of cheating when he is really the one cheating.

Paranoid Personality should not be confused with Paranoid Delusions in disorders like Schizophrenia. The complaints for somebody with Paranoid Personality Disorder are at least plausible. For example, my wife is cheating on me not I was abducted by aliens. Paranoid Personality is like a distortion of reality while paranoid delusions are almost entirely disconnected from reality.


Borderline Personality Disorder: A very temperamental person with drastic mood swings. They have poor impulse control which often leads to substance abuse. They may consider suicide or self-mutilation during emotional outbursts and then seem totally fine just a few minutes later. Some people think of Borderline Personality as a less extreme version of Bipolar Disorder. These patients often display the splitting defense mechanism where they think people are all good or all bad. They will say you are the best doctor in the whole world while your nurse is completely incompetent or vice versa. Examples include The Hulk and the stereotypical Teenage Drama Queen.


Histrionic Personality Disorder: A childish Prima Donna that is overly theatrical or dramatic. These patients are usually very colorful, extroverted and flirtatious. They always need to be the center of attention and are willing to act impulsively or in an extremely sexual manner to get that attention. They are very concerned with how they look and often display the defense mechanism of regression. Examples include Madonna, Paris Hilton & most reality TV stars.


Antisocial Personality Disorder: They are basically psychopaths and predators that exploit others without feeling guilt.  These patients are exploitive, deceitful, good at reading social cues and appear charming to other. They have a disregard for others wellbeing and frequently violate the rights of others. These individuals often have a history of committing crimes. Examples include Serial Killers, The Joker and The Grinch. Don’t confuse the adjective Antisocial with Antisocial Personality. When most non-medical people use the term antisocial they are referring to what is close to Schizoid personality. So don’t get the 2 confused.

Individuals who have these same symptoms, but are under the age of 18 are classified as having Conduct Disorder. This is a precursor that usually progresses to Antisocial Personality once they turn 18.


Narcissistic Personality Disorder: Vain and egotistical people with a sense of entitlement. These individuals have an inflated (grandiose) but fragile self-image. Narcissists require recognition of their success & lack empathy and patience for others. They are preoccupied with power and prestige. Often these individuals exploit others. However, this exploitation is for status or recognition unlike Antisocial people who exploit others for material gain or just because they enjoy it. Examples include Gregory House MD, Walter White from Breaking Bad & Stephen Colbert (the character, not the actual actor).


Avoidant Personality Disorder: These people want to have friends, but are usually socially isolated because they are insecure, scared of rejection and overly sensitive to negative criticism. They are painfully shy with feelings of inadequacy. Examples include Michael Jackson, who would do things like build tunnels or his own theme park so he could avoid people, and Heisman Trophy Winner Ricky Williams, who once gave an interview with his helmet still on because he didn’t like interacting with the media.


Dependent Personality Disorder: These are people who have very low self-esteem which leads them to be very reliant on others. The person they are reliant on can be a significant other, a parent or even their physician. These people feel like they need to be taken care of and are afraid of being abandoned. They are willing to surrender even very important responsibilities (like medical decisions) and generally agree with whatever their caretaker says. They are clingy and often display regression ego defense. Examples include Buster from Arrested Development and people who stay in an abusive relationship simply because they don’t think they can function on their own.


Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder: Extreme perfectionist to the point that it can hinder their ability to complete tasks. Organization, lists, schedules and small details are valued by people with this disorder. They are overly devoted to their work and rarely take leisure time. People with OCPD have interpersonal problems, but can have academic and occupational success.  They become upset if they cannot control the environment they are in and the people around them. An example would be Steve Jobs. His attention to even seemingly unimportant details was a big part of his success while he was also notoriously difficult to work for.

OCPD and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) are two distinct conditions even though there is some overlap. OCD patients have insight, while people with OCPD do not. In OCD they view their thoughts as abnormal, unwanted and distressing. In OCPD they view their way of thinking as normal and beneficial. A person with OCPD may seek out help from a healthcare professional due to interpersonal problems, but not about their way of thinking or acting.


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7 thoughts on “Personality Disorders with Famous Examples from TV & History”

  1. There is no difference between antisocial and antisocial personality. Antisocial is used to describe antisocial behavior and that’s it: that being someone who does not adhear to social norms.

    The correct term youre looking for to describe someone like a schizoid is: Asocial. Someone who understands social norms but has no interest in social relationships.

  2. Walter White is not at all a good example of narcissistic personality disorder. The entire premise of the show was that he was pretty much a normal guy, a scientist and a teacher with a marriage and a family, who got caught up in extraordinary situations as a result of dying from cancer.

    People with NPD by contrast have it their entire lives. Narcissistic wounding usually takes place in early childhood and signs of narcissistic thinking and behavior is present throughout their entire lives. This is a defining criteria of all personality disorders. Behavior is consistent in many situations. Walter White is not an example of this.

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