According to Wikipedia, personality disorders are "characterized by enduring maladaptive patterns of behavior, [...] deviating from those accepted by the individual's culture.". The APA also uses the expression "deviates from the expectations of the culture" to describe personality disorders. There has also been at least one study that found sociocultural factors in the difficulty of diagnosing autism in women, but that isn't a personality disorder.

So, this raises a question; is there a kind of personality that deviates from the expectations of a specific culture, enough to count as a personality disorder? Or, conversely, are there cultures where a personality that would otherwise be considered disordered is in fact within the usual parameters?


1 Answer 1


There are lists of culture-specific mental illnesses here, and similar examples listed here. The majority of them (such as possession and hysteria) appear to be culture-specific responses to extreme stress or trauma, though there are some exceptions (such as anorexia and geophagia).

None of the items listed are personality disorders.

That said, Wikipedia is referring to the way personality disorders are diagnosed, rather than to culture-specific disorders. For one thing, there are different diagnostic manuals used in North America (DSM) vs elsewhere (ICD). Additionally, how diagnostic criteria is evaluated can differ in a culture-specific way. For example, what Americans (where individualism is heavily emphasized) might consider narcissistic vs what East Asians (where interdependence is more important) consider narcissistic can differ substantially, and there are corresponding differences in prevalence of NPD between modern and traditional societies (eg, Paris, 2014; Jauk et al, 2021). This does suggest that some diagnosed with a personality disorder in one culture may not meet the criteria if evaluated within the context of a different culture.


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