• 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.
  • Cluster A is made up of three personality disorders—paranoid personality disorder, schizoid personality disorder, and schizotypal personality disorder, all of which are characterized by social withdrawal and awkwardness.
  • Cluster B includes antisocial, borderline, histrionic, and narcissistic disorder; each of these is characterized by dramatic or emotional tendencies.
  • The remaining personality disorders—avoidant, dependent, and obsessive-compulsive disorder—fall under cluster C and are defined by anxiety-ridden thoughts and behaviors.
  • While there are no known cures for personality disorders, psychotherapy and medication are both effective forms of treatment that help to alleviate the harmful symptoms.

Personality disorders belong to a group of mental illnesses characterized by unhealthy thoughts and behaviors, which can seriously hinder one’s everyday functioning. You’re probably familiar with several of these disorders, like borderline personality disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder. But you might not be familiar with their distinguishing clusters.

Each personality disorder belongs to a cluster or subgroup, which further classifies that specific group of personality disorders: cluster A’s disorders are classified as odd, bizarre, or eccentric; cluster B’s disorders are called dramatic or erratic; and cluster C’s are considered anxious and/or fearful. Now, let’s take a closer look at these clusters and the 10 personality disorders that make up these clusters:

Cluster A: Odd, Bizarre, Eccentric

This cluster of personality disorder is defined by social withdrawal and social awkwardness. Those who struggle with the disorders in this cluster suffer from distorted thinking.

  • Paranoid personality disorder is characterized by a great distrust in others, even loved ones. Due to this distrust, these individuals are always on guard and suspicious of those around them. They are overly sensitive, easily humiliated, grudgeful, and they have trouble building close relationships.
  • Schizoid personality disorder leaves individuals feeling detached, uninterested in social relationships, and lacking emotional response. Those affected by schizoid personality disorder are disconnected from reality and more prone to introspection.
  • Schizotypal personality disorder is characterized by oddities in both appearance and behavior. Individuals with this illness often have strange beliefs, such as magical thinking. Like those with schizoid personality disorder, they avoid social relationships: not because they lack the desire to have these close relationships with others, but because they fear them.

Cluster B: Dramatic, Erratic

The personality disorders in this cluster are characterized by overly dramatic and emotional thinking and/or behavior. People with the following disorders often struggle with impulse control.

  • Antisocial personality disorder causes one to lack empathy, that is concern for the feelings of others. Individuals with antisocial personality disorder are irritable, aggressive, impulsive, and unapologetic for their actions. However, these individuals typically have no problem developing relationships… though they are short-lived due to the aforementioned tendencies.
  • Borderline personality disorder is characterized by an individual’s absent sense of self, which triggers feelings of desolation and fears of abandonment and neglect. People who are diagnosed with this disorder typically have unstable relationships and emotions, as well as outbursts of anger, violence, and impulsive behavior.
  • Histrionic personality disorder leaves individuals feeling worthless, useless. They rely solely on attracting attention and receiving approval from others for their wellbeing; they may come across as charming or act inappropriately seductive. Furthermore, these individuals are sensitive to criticism and rejection.
  • Narcissistic personality disorder is characterized by feelings of entitlement and a need to be admired or even worshipped. These individuals lack empathy and have no problem exploiting others to achieve their goals; if they feel disrespected or obstructed, they often react with anger and revenge.

Cluster C: Anxious, Fearful

The final cluster is marked by anxiety-ridden thoughts and behaviors. People with these personality disorders have serious fears that inhibit their everyday:

  • Avoidant personality disorder makes people believe they’re inferior and inadequate human beings. These individuals are terrified of being criticized, embarrassed, or rejected; and due to these fears, they avoid social interaction. They restrain themselves even in relationships with their closest loved ones.
  • Dependent personality disorder is characterized by a lack of self-confidence and the individual’s need to be cared for. Not only do they need help making important life decisions, but they require help making mundane decisions on a day-to-day basis. Their biggest fear is abandonment, and they do whatever it takes to ensure upkeep of their relationships.
  • Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder causes individuals to become preoccupied with details, lists, organization, rules, and so on; it is characterized by the utmost perfectionism and productivity that can very well hinder one’s relationships. People with obsessive-compulsive personality disorder are usually cautious and controlling to a fault.

Treatment and Recovery

Unfortunately, there are no known cures for personality disorders and the same goes for a majority of mental illnesses. However, there are multiple ways to effectively treat personality disorders and help these individuals better handle the harmful symptoms that come with their given illness. While the best treatment methods can vary for each personality disorder, the following are promising options that have proven to help:

  1. Psychotherapy: This kind of therapy allows individuals suffering from personality disorders to learn more about their condition and talk about their harmful thoughts and behaviors, their moods, and their feelings. The therapist helps them cope with the harmful effects of the given disorder and also better manage the illness. Cognitive behavioral therapy, interpersonal therapy, and family-focused therapy all fall into the category of psychotherapy; a mental health profession can help determine what kind of psychotherapy is best for an individual and their condition.
  2. Medication: While there aren’t any medications specifically approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat personality disorders, there are multiple psychiatric medicines that can help with the symptoms that come with an individual’s personality disorder. These include antidepressants, mood stabilizers, anti-anxiety medications, and antipsychotic medications.