Understanding the Three Clusters of Personality Disorders
The concept of personality disorders dates back to 1801, when psychiatrist Philippe Pinel described a condition in which patients had outbursts of rage without psychosis. By the end of the 1800s, mental health professionals pinpointed seven antisocial personality traits and described what was then known as “psychopathic personality.”
In the years since, the understanding of personality disorders has evolved to include 10 different conditions. While each personality disorder has different symptoms and traits, professionals sort them into three clusters: A, B, and C. The disorders within each cluster share important characteristics.
Cluster A – Eccentric, Odd
People with these disorders exhibit behavior that others perceive as strange or erratic. These unusual behaviors lead to social difficulties. The disorders in Cluster A are:
Paranoid Personality Disorder: People with this disorder have difficulty trusting others, even without any reasonable suspicion. They may hold grudges for long times, refuse to confide in others, and perceive mundane remarks as slights against them.
Schizotypal Personality Disorder: Patients with this disorder often hear voices, believe everyday occurrences are really hidden messages for them, and believe that their thoughts can influence people and events in their lives. They may also feel uncomfortable with close personal relationships.
Schizoid Personality Disorder: This disorder makes people reluctant to be around others, making them seem cold and unapproachable to others. People with schizoid personality disorder cannot pick up on social cues, find happiness in everyday activities, or express emotion.
Cluster B – Erratic, Dramatic
People with these types of personality disorders display unpredictable behaviors and react dramatically to seemingly mundane events. They tend to be impulsive and erratic. The four types of Cluster B personality disorders are:
Antisocial Personality Disorder: People with this disorder have little to no regard for the needs and emotions of others. They may also not think much about the safety of themselves or others. Because of this, people with antisocial personality disorder often lie, cheat, steal, and con others in order to get their ways. Furthermore, their impulsive behaviors often violate the rights of others and can even turn aggressive. Even when they commit violent acts against others, people with antisocial personality disorder do not feel remorse. When laypeople refer to sociopaths, they often mean people with this disorder.
Borderline Personality Disorder: People with this Cluster B personality disorder have fragile egos and believe that the people they love will abandon them. This combination can lead to unstable relationships, both with romantic partners and others. When they sense any slight or downturn in a relationship, the person with borderline personality disorder may act out with threats of self-harm, anger outbursts, and paranoia. They may also resort to risky behaviors from their impulsivity.
Histrionic Personality Disorder: This disorder is marked by a constant need for attention. People with histrionic personality disorder will resort to things like dramatic outbursts and sexual promiscuity to get the attention they need. They often speak in hyperbole and experience quick, dramatic shifts in their emotions. People with this disorder may think their relationships are deeper than the other person believes.
Narcissistic Personality Disorder: People with this Cluster B personality disorder believe their needs and feelings are more important than others’. They may fantasize about power, lie about their accomplishments, and expect lots of praise from others. People around them often call people with this disorder arrogant.
Cluster C – Fearful, Anxious
People with Cluster C personality disorders are afraid of specific things and avoid confronting those fears. This behavior leads to trouble in interpersonal relationships. The Cluster C disorders are:
Avoidant Personality Disorder: This disorder makes people terrified of rejection or any criticism. Because of these fears, they avoid contact with others at work and social events. These patients often feel unattractive and unworthy of affection.
Dependent Personality Disorder: People with this condition are motivated by the fear of having to take care of themselves or make decisions. As such, they depend on others to take care of their needs, make decisions, and give them constant approval. People with this disorder are at risk of staying in abusive relationships and are typically terrified of confrontation.
Obsessive-compulsive Personality Disorder: People with this disorder take perfectionism to extreme levels. They may obsess over rules, cleanliness, and order. They fear that if they do not complete certain tasks, something terrible will happen. Their rigidity sometimes hinders their relationships and always keeps them from living their full lives.
Personality disorders affect both the person who has the condition and those around them. The professionals at LifeStance Health can help all those affected by personality disorders. Contact a therapy clinic near you today to book an appointment!