Guide: Personality Disorders – The 3 Clusters | Personality Psychology (2022)

*Disclaimer: I’m not a licensed mental health professional or a psychiatrist, so please refrain from asking for personal or medical advice.

Also, please avoid self-diagnosing. If you suspect a loved one may be struggling, please seek out professional help as soon as possible.

There are three clusters in total which span 10 different personality disorders according to the DSM-V, a clinical psychiatric guideline to formal diagnosis and treatment.

It is estimated that around 9-10% of the U.S. population has a personality disorder at any given time, but most cases are either misdiagnosed (as anxiety or depression)—or not diagnosed at all.

Personality disorders are often co-morbid (i.e. existing at the same time) with other mental health conditions, such as depression.

Cluster A: Odd / Eccentric

Eccentric personality disorders focus on “strangeness” in thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors. Individuals may have trouble “fitting in” and making friends because of their esoteric interests and tastes.

Paranoid

Out-of-proportion skepticism and second-guessing are hallmark behaviors of Paranoid personality disorder. An underlying fear that information will eventually be used against your best interests is present through each interaction.

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Signs of Paranoid Personality Disorder:

  • Wary and suspicious of others’ motives
  • Trouble sleeping due to intrusive thoughts
  • Guarded and private about personal life
  • Confirmation biases toward perceived schemes
  • Darting, scanning eyes, ready to spot danger

Schizoid

Schizoid personality disorder leads to a chronic avoidance of social situations and the difficulty of expressing appropriate emotions. Anhedonia (i.e. the inability to experience positive emotions) is also common.

Signs of Schizoid Personality Disorder:

  • Emotional blankness
  • Little to no interest in forming relationships
  • Prefers solitude and quiet
  • Trouble with motivation and planning
  • Low EQ (Emotional Quotient)

Schizotypal

Different from Schizophrenia (which is an official clinical and biological condition), Schizotypal personality disorder comes with a set of far-off and unusual beliefs, often involving a “mission” or “calling” to fulfill.

Signs of Schizotypal Personality Disorder:

  • Far-off beliefs and daydreams
  • Difficulty distinguishing between reality and imagination
  • Bizarre mannerisms and behaviors
  • May travel to a place or meet a person as part of “mission”
  • Few close relationships, or none at all

Cluster B: Dramatic

Dramatic personality disorders capitalize on both instability and unpredictability. Individuals follow their own whims and give little to no regard to formal (written or unwritten) rules or systemic structures.

Antisocial

With a particularly misleading name, antisocial refers to the demonstration of a range of criminally deviant and morally unjust behaviors such as setting fires, manipulation, and physical (often dangerous) aggression towards humans or animals.

Early rejection from peers may have an effect on the onset of antisocial tendencies. Bullying and subversive treatment appear to influence the flare-up of antisocial behavior during adolescent years and beyond.

Signs of Antisocial Personality Disorder:

  • Trouble with the law and/or in school
  • Damaging behavior toward property or animals
  • Impulsive and follows whims
  • Lack of long-term goals or insight
  • Considers self as free and independent

Histrionic

Similar to the narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), histrionics demand constant attention and acts as if life is a stage—and they play the leading role. Any opportunity for admiration and shameless self-promotion is seized and amplified in the glistening eyes of a histrionic.

They will ruffle others’ feathers on purpose (or even as learned by accident) to garner sympathy and continue feeding into their egos and grandiose self-image. Drama and fuel to the fire secretly excites them.

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During calm periods, they may experience boredom and stir up a storm in a teapot to chase the next high.

Signs of Histrionic Personality Disorder:

  • Flashy clothing and/or behaviors
  • Never-ending train of drama
  • Charismatic, excellent first impressions
  • Dramatic voice changes and inflections
  • Seeks stimuli to keep energy levels high

Narcissistic

While the histrionic may be comfortable with being the star of their own show (i.e. immediate group of family and friends), narcissists fantasize about achieving unlimited power, fame, glory, and success. Think big-scale and internationally.

Arrogant and delusionally self-confident, narcissists demand special treatment in any situation and lack empathy (while being unaware of it).

For example, they may cut lines, make exclusive demands in restaurants—and proceed to leave a one-star review ranting about how convoluted and horrendous the service is.

Signs of Narcissistic Personality Disorder:

  • Low to no empathy
  • Constantly reverts conversation back to self
  • Believes others are jealous; struggles with jealousy
  • Daydreams of unlimited success, fame, or power
  • Deep-seated need for external admiration

Borderline

Characterized by fluctuating periods of instability, Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) comes with excessive idealization of relationships, sudden shifts in life goals, high impulsivity, and reckless behaviors.

Self-harm and mutilation is common, as their self-image is often painted in a negative light. The development of BPD is commonly thought to be influenced by childhood neglect or abuse, whether physical or psychological.

Interestingly, individuals with Borderline tendencies are among the least likely to seek out professional treatment and help for their condition as they have a sense certainty in their behavior, despite finding themselves in trouble and dangerous situations regularly.

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Signs of Borderline Personality Disorder:

  • Unstable and volatile relationships
  • Self-mutiliation or harmful behavior
  • Fears abandonment and isolation
  • Fluctuating mood and emotional states
  • Black-and-white thinking and attitudes

Cluster C: Anxious

Anxious personality disorders circulate around fear and pressing feelings of inadequacy. Emotions often manifest into physiological behaviors, such as headaches, fatigue, shakiness, and tension.

Avoidant

With the irrational fear of rejection in public situations, avoidants actively steer clear of social situations where they face potential humiliation.

Also, they selectively choose to avoid making new friends or acquaintances unless they are absolutely sure of their trust and acceptance.

As a result, they may choose career paths that limit interactions with people as much as possible. This perpetuates their syndromes and escalates a seemingly silent issue of the psyche.

Signs of Avoidant Personality Disorder:

  • Hesitant, shies away from social interaction
  • Sensitive about external perceptions and attitudes
  • Underlying and pervasive fear of rejection
  • May be socially anxious and fearful
  • Self-esteem issues due to self-imposed social ineptitude

Dependent

Major and minor life decisions all require external input and guidance from others.

Dependents desperately cling to relationships and feel an overwhelming sense of impending doom when asked to be independent and make their own choices.

Their core, underlying fear is to be left and alone and helpless—with no one to confide in. At the first sight of abandonment or conflict, they may jump to conclusions and feel the crushing weight of imagined doom.

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Signs of Dependent Personality Disorder:

  • Weak and fragile sense of self
  • Reliance upon others to make decisions
  • Need to be taken care of
  • Childish and less mature for age
  • Assurance-seeking from superiors

Obsessive-Compulsive (OCPD)

Aside from stereotypical and repetitive rituals such as hand-washing or checking the lock before leaving (characteristic of OCD, not OCPD), obsessive-compulsive personality disorder also ties into thought patterns and a need to do things the “correct” way, as perceived by the individual.

For instance, an individual with OCD may like to have their morning tea at exactly 6:55am every morning. Another may click their pens 17 times before writing.

An extremely specific schedule may govern their day-to-day life, and a single deviation or interruption to it may completely frazzle and disorient them. OCPD is characterized by extreme control and perfectionism—which can result in workaholic behaviors.

Signs of Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder:

  • Physiological symptoms such as tension or stomachaches from overthinking and ruminating
  • Considers self as a righteous and “good” member of society
  • Highly attuned to societal rules and norms
  • Views world in terms of organized hierarchies
  • Stresses importance of productivity and hard work

Personality Disorders: Summary

  • Cluster A: Odd / Eccentric – Paranoid, Schizoid, Schizotypal
  • Cluster B: Dramatic – Antisocial, Histrionic, Narcissistic, Borderline
  • Cluster C: Anxious – Avoidant, Dependent, Obsessive-Compulsive

References

Tyrer, P., Mulder, R., Crawford, M., Newton-Howes, G., Simonsen, E., Ndetei, D., Koldobsky, N., Fossati, A., Mbatia, J., Barrett, B. (2010, February). Personality disorder: a new global perspective. World Psychiatry. https://doi.org/10.1002/j.2051-5545.2010.tb00270.x.

A Guide to DSM-5: Personality Disorders.Medscape Psychiatry, Bret S. Stetka, MD, Christoph U. Correll, 21 May 2013.

Theodore Millon; Roger D. Davis (1996).Disorders of Personality: DSM-IV and Beyond. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. p.226.ISBN: 978-0-471-01186-6.

FAQs

What are the 3 clusters of personality disorders? ›

Personality disorders are characterized by unhealthy thoughts and actions, which interrupt one's day-to-day living. These disorders can be further divided into three clusters: A, the odd and eccentric; B, the dramatic or erratic; and C, the anxious or fearful.

What are the main clusters of personality disorder? ›

Cluster A personality disorders are characterized by odd, eccentric thinking or behavior. They include paranoid personality disorder, schizoid personality disorder and schizotypal personality disorder.

Why are personality disorders grouped into three clusters? ›

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.

What are the three clusters of personality disorders quizlet? ›

The three clusters include: -Odd or eccentric behavior (Cluster A); paranoid, schizoid, and schizotypal personality disorders. -Dramatic, Emotional, or erratic behavior (Cluster B); antisocial, borderline, narcissistic, and histrionic personality disorders.

What are the three types of personality? ›

What types of personality disorder are there?
  • Paranoid personality disorder.
  • Schizoid personality disorder.
  • Schizotypal personality disorder.

Can you have 3 personality disorders? ›

Technically, according to DSM-5*, a person can receive more than one personality disorder diagnosis. People who are diagnosed with a personality disorder most often qualify for more than one diagnosis. A person with a severe personality disorder might meet the criteria for four, five or even more disorders!

What are cluster A personality traits? ›

Cluster A is called the odd, eccentric cluster. It includes Paranoid Personality Disorder, Schizoid Personality Disorder, and Schizotypal Personality Disorders. The common features of the personality disorders in this cluster are social awkwardness and social withdrawal.

What are the three main categories of personality disorders in the DSM 5? ›

The DSM-5 groups personality disorders into three broad clusters that it refers to as A, B, and C.
...
Cluster C personality disorders
  • avoidant personality disorder.
  • dependent personality disorder.
  • obsessive-compulsive personality disorders.
19 Feb 2019

What are clusters in mental health? ›

What is a Cluster? In this context a cluster is a global description of a group of people with similar characteristics as identified from a holistic assessment and then rated using the Mental Health Clustering Tool (MHCT). The clusters allow for a degree of variation in the combination and severity of rated needs.

What is Cluster A and cluster B? ›

Cluster A disorders are defined by “odd” thinking and behaviors like paranoia or a lack of emotional responses. Cluster C disorders are defined by anxious thoughts and behavior. Cluster B. Cluster B disorders involve unpredictable, dramatic, or intensely emotional responses to things.

What are personality disorders in psychology? ›

Personality disorders are long-term patterns of behavior and inner experiences that differs significantly from what is expected. The pattern of experience and behavior begins by late adolescence or early adulthood and causes distress or problems in functioning.

What are the types of personality disorders? ›

MEDICAL ENCYCLOPEDIA
  • Antisocial personality disorder.
  • Avoidant personality disorder.
  • Borderline personality disorder.
  • Dependent personality disorder.
  • Histrionic personality disorder.
  • Narcissistic personality disorder.
  • Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder.
  • Paranoid personality disorder.
2 Dec 2016

Is Schizoid a schizophrenic? ›

People with these disorders may be viewed as odd or eccentric. Even though the names may sound similar, unlike schizotypal personality disorder and schizophrenia, people with schizoid personality disorder: Are in touch with reality, so they're unlikely to experience paranoia or hallucinations.

What is the primary characteristic of narcissistic personality disorder? ›

Narcissistic personality disorder — one of several types of personality disorders — is a mental condition in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for excessive attention and admiration, troubled relationships, and a lack of empathy for others.

How many personality disorder diagnoses does the DSM 5 include? ›

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) lists 10 types of personality disorders. Personality disorders... read more , although most patients who meet criteria for one type also meet criteria for one or more others.

What are the 4 types of personalities? ›

A study published in Nature Human Behaviour reveals that there are four personality types — average, reserved, role-model and self-centered — and these findings might change the thinking about personality in general.

What are the main personality types? ›

The five major personality types are conceived to be Conscientiousness, Extroversion, Openness, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism.

What are the most common personality disorders? ›

According to a major study, the most prevalent personality disorder is obsessive-compulsive personality disorder. The second most common is narcissistic personality disorder, followed by borderline personality disorder.

Is ADHD a personality disorder? ›

Borderline personality disorder (BPD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are both recognized mental health conditions. However, BPD is a personality disorder, while ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder.

What is the most difficult personality disorder? ›

But antisocial personality disorder is one of the most difficult types of personality disorders to treat. A person with antisocial personality disorder may also be reluctant to seek treatment and may only start therapy when ordered to do so by a court.

What cluster is bipolar? ›

Conclusions: Cluster B personality disorders are prevalent comorbid conditions identifiable in a substantial number of individuals with bipolar disorder, making an independent contribution to increased lifetime suicide risk.

What cluster is ADHD? ›

Background: Attentional deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in adults is associated with borderline personality characteristics or cluster B (emotional instability), but in certain populations, such as medical students, it might be associated with cluster C traits (perfectionism, dependency, anxiety).

What is Type A personality? ›

The phrase "Type A" refers to a pattern of behavior and personality associated with high achievement, competitiveness, and impatience, among other characteristics. In particular, the positive traits of a Type A personality include: Self-control. Motivation to achieve results.

How do you deal with cluster personality disorder? ›

Medications include:
  1. Antidepressants. Antidepressants help treat symptoms of depression, but they can also reduce impulsive behavior or feelings or anger and frustration.
  2. Anti-anxiety medications. Medications for anxiety can help manage symptoms of dread or perfectionism.
  3. Mood stabilizers. ...
  4. Antipsychotics.
14 Aug 2018

What are the traits of cluster C personality disorders of DSM-5? ›

Cluster C personality disorders are three conditions that share common features like fearfulness and anxiousness. In other words, besides other specific symptoms, people living with avoidant, dependent, and obsessive-compulsive personality disorders tend to experience strong feelings related to: anxiety. fear.

How does the DSM define personality disorders? ›

DSM-5. The most recent fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders stresses that a personality disorder is an enduring and inflexible pattern of long duration leading to significant distress or impairment and is not due to use of substances or another medical condition.

What are three symptoms of histrionic personality? ›

Histrionic Personality Disorder Symptoms
  • Excessive attention seeking.
  • Engaging in inappropriate behaviors to gain praise or approval.
  • Acting out in order to always be the center of attention; feeling uncomfortable or out of place when not the center of attention.
  • Being easily influenced by others.

What are the characteristics of clusters AB and C personality disorders? ›

In the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th ed., these styles are categorized into three clusters based on their prominent characteristics: cluster A, the odd or eccentric (e.g., paranoid, schizoid, schizotypal); cluster B, the dramatic, emotional, or erratic (e.g., antisocial, borderline, ...

What cluster is psychosis? ›

Cluster 16 – Psychosis and Addiction

'Psychosis' is an umbrella term for a collection of lots of symptoms.

What causes personality disorder? ›

Early life experiences

If you have been given a personality disorder diagnosis you are more likely than most people to have experienced difficult or traumatic experiences growing up, such as: neglect. losing a parent or experiencing a sudden bereavement. emotional, physical or sexual abuse.

Is BPD a cluster B personality disorder? ›

Cluster B personality disorders include antisocial personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, narcissistic personality disorder, and histrionic personality disorder. These tend to be the least common disorders but are often the most challenging to treat.

Can you have BPD and histrionic? ›

There are only a few studies that have examined the co-occurrence of HPD and BPD. One often-quoted study found that HPD frequently occurs with BPD. 3 In another study that used a community sample, about 10% of people with BPD also met criteria for HPD.

Do cluster B personality disorders run in families? ›

Having family members with BPD can increase your risk of developing the condition as well. This is due to shared genetic and environmental factors that play a role in causing BPD.

How many personality types are there? ›

Myers-Briggs Type Indicator: The 16 Personality Types.

What are the cluster C personality disorders? ›

The three types are: Avoidant personality disorder. Dependent personality disorder. Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder.

What causes cluster B personality disorders? ›

Causes and risk factors

One study found a strong correlation between borderline personality disorder and history of sexual trauma. Another study found a link between children who were verbally abused by their mothers and various personality disorders, including borderline and narcissistic personality disorders.

What are the 7 types of personality disorders? ›

Keep reading to learn more about these 10 types of personality disorders.
  • Paranoid personality disorder. ...
  • Schizoid personality disorder. ...
  • Schizotypal personality disorder. ...
  • Antisocial personality disorder. ...
  • Histrionic personality disorder. ...
  • Borderline personality disorder. ...
  • Narcissistic personality disorder.

Is OCD a personality disorder? ›

Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD) is a personality disorder that's characterized by extreme perfectionism, order, and neatness.

Is PTSD a personality disorder? ›

PTSD is a frequent disorder in general practice and it is often associated with personality disorder. Women who experienced high frequency body-contact traumatic events at an early age often suffer from personality disorder and present a particularly severe form of PTSD deserving referral to specialised care.

What is the difference between Cluster A and Cluster B personality disorders? ›

Cluster A disorders are defined by “odd” thinking and behaviors like paranoia or a lack of emotional responses. Cluster C disorders are defined by anxious thoughts and behavior. Cluster B. Cluster B disorders involve unpredictable, dramatic, or intensely emotional responses to things.

What are the three main categories of personality disorders in the DSM-5? ›

The DSM-5 groups personality disorders into three broad clusters that it refers to as A, B, and C.
...
Cluster C personality disorders
  • avoidant personality disorder.
  • dependent personality disorder.
  • obsessive-compulsive personality disorders.
19 Feb 2019

What is cluster A? ›

Cluster A is called the odd, eccentric cluster. It includes Paranoid Personality Disorder, Schizoid Personality Disorder, and Schizotypal Personality Disorders. The common features of the personality disorders in this cluster are social awkwardness and social withdrawal.

What are cluster B and C traits? ›

There are four cluster B disorders: antisocial, borderline, histrionic, and narcissistic personality disorders. Cluster C: A person with this type behaves in anxious or avoidant ways. There are three cluster C disorders: avoidant, dependent, and obsessive-compulsive personality disorders.

What are the characteristics of clusters AB and C personality disorders? ›

In the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th ed., these styles are categorized into three clusters based on their prominent characteristics: cluster A, the odd or eccentric (e.g., paranoid, schizoid, schizotypal); cluster B, the dramatic, emotional, or erratic (e.g., antisocial, borderline, ...

Is ADHD a personality disorder? ›

Borderline personality disorder (BPD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are both recognized mental health conditions. However, BPD is a personality disorder, while ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder.

How many clusters of personality disorders are presented in the DSM-5? ›

DSM-5 groups the 10 types of personality disorders into 3 clusters (A, B, and C), based on similar characteristics.

What are personality disorders in psychology? ›

Personality disorders are long-term patterns of behavior and inner experiences that differs significantly from what is expected. The pattern of experience and behavior begins by late adolescence or early adulthood and causes distress or problems in functioning.

How are personality disorders classified? ›

The ICD-11 nomenclature for Personality Disorders [8] focuses on the impairment of self and interpersonal personality functioning, which may be classified according to degree of severity (“Personality Difficulty”, “Mild Personality Disorder”, “Moderate Personality Disorder”, and “Severe Personality Disorder”).

What cluster is ADHD? ›

Background: Attentional deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in adults is associated with borderline personality characteristics or cluster B (emotional instability), but in certain populations, such as medical students, it might be associated with cluster C traits (perfectionism, dependency, anxiety).

What is Type A personality? ›

The phrase "Type A" refers to a pattern of behavior and personality associated with high achievement, competitiveness, and impatience, among other characteristics. In particular, the positive traits of a Type A personality include: Self-control. Motivation to achieve results.

How many cluster personality disorders are there? ›

There are three main clusters of personality disorders: cluster A, cluster B, cluster C. Each cluster has several unique traits that are used to categorize the symptoms. Grouped within the three clusters are 10 personality disorders.

Is OCD cluster A? ›

Cluster C is called the anxious, fearful cluster. It includes the Avoidant, Dependent, and Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorders. These three personality disorders share a high level of anxiety.

What cluster is depression? ›

Psychological functioning related to depression and anxiety is characteristic of Cluster C. In fact, the data in this study confirm that patients from Cluster C score higher than other patients (both Without PD and Cluster A and B groups) in depression and state anxiety.

Can you have BPD and histrionic? ›

There are only a few studies that have examined the co-occurrence of HPD and BPD. One often-quoted study found that HPD frequently occurs with BPD. 3 In another study that used a community sample, about 10% of people with BPD also met criteria for HPD.

Videos

1. Understanding Personality Disorders
(RGP - Regional Geriatric Program of Toronto)
2. Types of Personality Disorders: Cluster A, B, C - Doctor Explains
(HOW TO MEDICATE)
3. Personality disorders | Behavior | MCAT | Khan Academy
(khanacademymedicine)
4. Personality Disorders (Nursing Care, Diagnosis, and Interventions)
(NURSINGcom)
5. Emergence of Personality Disorder in Adolescence: New Findings & their Implications for Treatment
(American Psychological Association)
6. Summary of all 10 Personality Disorders
(Dr. Todd Grande)

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