The 3 Clusters of Personality Disorders
A personality disorder is a mental health condition that affects how a person thinks, feels, and behaves. They cause distress in many areas of life, including someone’s romantic, familial, and platonic relationships.
Ten distinct personality disorders are grouped into three clusters based on their similar or shared symptoms and patterns of behavior. This post describes the three clusters, what personality disorders are included in each group, and what causes them to be grouped together.
By understanding these categories and what makes them distinct from one another, we can gain a better overall understanding of personality disorders in general and the people who suffer from them.
Cluster A (Odd, Eccentric)
The Cluster A disorder group includes paranoid personality disorder, schizoid personality disorder, and schizotypal personality disorder. These three disorders are all characterized by an individual’s difficulty relating to others and a tendency towards social isolation.
Individuals with these diagnoses may have odd beliefs or thoughts, and their behavior can be seen as eccentric or socially inappropriate. For example, those with paranoid personality disorder often misinterpret benign events as malicious attacks on themselves, while individuals with schizoid personality disorder tend to distance themselves from any kind of close relationships.
Those with schizotypal personality disorder may exhibit strange behaviors such as talking to oneself or dressing inappropriately for the situation. When you compare the similarities these disorders share, it’s clear why they are grouped this way.
Cluster B (Erratic, Dramatic)
The Cluster B group contains four disorders: narcissistic personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, histrionic personality disorder, and antisocial personality disorder. These four conditions share very similar features in terms of their symptoms and patterns of behavior.
For example, individuals with any one of these disorders will display behaviors such as impulsivity, emotional instability or imbalance, an inability to maintain close relationships, or risky behaviors such as substance abuse or criminal activity. Additionally, rapid mood swings and difficulty recognizing boundaries are also incredibly common behaviors shown by people with cluster B disorders.
All these similarities suggest there are important underlying causes shared among all four disorders within this cluster, which is another reason they’re grouped together.
Cluster C (Fearful, Anxious)
The Cluster C group comprises avoidant personality disorder, dependent personality disorder, and obsessive-compulsive personality disorder. These disorders share certain features, such as a tendency toward anxiety and fearfulness in social situations, submissiveness to authority figures, and difficulty expressing emotions openly or assertively.
People with these conditions often struggle with feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem due to their inability to properly cope with stressful events. They may also have difficulty forming intimate relationships due to their fear of rejection or abandonment.
The symptoms associated with these disorders are highly interrelated; individuals who suffer from one condition can also experience symptoms related to another within the same cluster group.
For instance, those diagnosed with avoidant PD may also present some behaviors shown in dependent PD, such as clinging behavior or high levels of distress when separated from loved ones.
It is important for clinicians treating patients suffering from Cluster C disorders to consider the overlapping nature of these conditions to design the most effective treatment plan.
To summarize, the three clusters of disorders were grouped together this way because of the similarities they show. This provides an easy-to-understand framework for understanding the different types of personality disorders someone can be diagnosed with.
Each cluster is characterized by its own unique set of symptoms that are linked together, and understanding these clusters can help you better understand those around you who have been diagnosed with a personality disorder.
If you think you may have one of these disorders, please reach out to a mental health professional for support and coping mechanisms.