According to new research published in Psychosomatic Medicine, overweight and obese women are more likely to have antisocial personality disorder, paranoid personality disorder, and extreme social phobia than their leaner peers.

Dr. Jitender Sareen of the University of Manitoba and his colleagues suggest in their report that obesity in women could cause antisocial and paranoid personality disorders and vice versa.

"People who are overweight or obese are known to be at higher risk of so-called Axis I psychiatric disorders, which include major depression, anxiety disorders, and substance abuse," says Dr. Sareen.

Sareen and his colleagues looked at data from a 2001-2002 national survey on 43,093 US residents 18 and older. Study participants had been assessed for all seven different types of personality disorders.

The result: They found that the overweight and obese women were at greater risk of antisocial, paranoid, and avoidant personality disorder.

Women with avoidant or paranoid personalities may lead more sedentary lifestyles, making them more likely to gain weight, while the stigmatization overweight women may experience could itself lead to personality problems, the researchers said.

Personality disorders are a group of conditions in which chronic behavior patterns cause serious problems with relationships and work. Evidence shows that people with personality disorders have difficulty dealing with everyday stresses and problems, and they often have stormy relationships with others. These conditions can vary from mild to severe.

Talking to a doctor or therapist is important if you suspect you are someone you care for has a personality disorder.

Symptoms of a Personality Disorder

Mental health professionals categorize personality disorders into the following types according to defining features:

Antisocial personality disorder. The person manipulates, exploits, or violates the rights of others. They break the law repeatedly; lie, steal, and fight often; disregards the safety of self and others; and do not show any guilt.

Avoidant personality disorder. The person has a lifelong pattern of feeling extremely shy, inadequate, and is sensitive to rejection. They are preoccupied with their own shortcomings and form relationships with others only if they believe they will not be rejected.

Borderline personality disorder. The person makes impulsive actions, and has an unstable mood and chaotic relationships. They swing wildly from love to hate and back again. They tend to see things in terms of extremes, either all good or all bad. They also typically view themselves as victims of circumstance and take little responsibility for themselves or their problems.

Dependent personality disorder. The person depends too much on others to meet their emotional and physical needs. They do not trust their own ability to make decisions. They may be devastated by separation and loss. They may go to great lengths, even suffering abuse, to stay in a relationship.

Histrionic personality disorder. The person acts very emotional and dramatic in order to get attention. They tend to be overly concerned with their looks; overly sensitive to criticism or disapproval; have a low tolerance for frustration or delayed gratification; and need to be the center of attention.

Narcissistic personality disorder. The person has an inflated sense of self-importance and an extreme preoccupation with one's self. They take advantage of other people to achieve their own goals; exaggerate their achievements and talents; require constant attention and admiration; and are preoccupied with fantasies of success, power, beauty, intelligence, or ideal love.

Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder. The person is preoccupied with rules, orderliness, and control. Their perfectionism may interfere with their ability to complete tasks, because their standards are so rigid. People with this disorder may emotionally withdraw when they are not able to control a situation.

Paranoid personality disorder. The person is very distrustful and highly suspicious of others. They are usually unable to acknowledge their own negative feelings towards other people.

Schizoid personality disorder. The person has a lifelong pattern of indifference to others and social isolation. She appears aloof and detached, avoids social activities that involve significant contact with other people, and does not want or enjoy close relationships, even with family members.

Schizotypal personality disorder. The person has difficulty with interpersonal relationships and disturbances in thought patterns, appearance, and behavior. They behave oddly and have unusual beliefs such as aliens, witchcraft, or fears of being monitored by government agencies. They cling to these beliefs so strongly that it isolates them from normal relationships.

While these are only brief descriptions of the personality disorders, if you or someone you care for is experiencing one or more of these symptoms for a period of time, you should seek medical attention. Call for an appointment with your health care provider or mental health professional.


American Psychiatric Association. (2000). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. 4th ed. (text revision). (DSM-IV-TR). Arlington, VA.

Heavier Women Seen Prone to Personality Disorders. Asana Integrated Medical Group. Website: Accessed November 16, 2009

Harding, A. Heavier Women Seen Prone to Personality Disorders. Reuters Health. January 6, 2009.

Personality Disorders.

Psychosomatic Medicine, November/December 2008.

Moore DP, Jefferson JW, eds. Handbook of Medical Psychiatry. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2004: chaps 134-143.