Personality disorders are a group of mental illnesses characterized by unhealthy thoughts and behaviors, which can seriously hinder someone’s everyday functioning. Some of these disorders have familiar names, like borderline personality disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, or schizoid personality disorder.
However, 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. Take a closer look at the personality disorder clusters and the 10 disorders that define them.
What Is a Cluster Personality Disorder?
Personality disorder clusters contain mental health conditions that are grouped together due to sharing overlapping symptoms.
- Personality disorder cluster A includes paranoid personality disorder, schizoid personality disorder, and schizotypal personality disorder.
- Personality disorder cluster B contains antisocial personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, and histrionic personality disorder, and narcissistic personality disorder.
- Personality disorder cluster C is composed of avoidant personality disorder, dependent personality disorder, and obsessive compulsive personality disorder.
What Are the 10 Personality Disorders?
The 10 personality disorders are:
- Paranoid personality disorder
- Schizoid personality disorder
- Schizotypal personality disorder
- Antisocial personality disorder
- Borderline personality disorder
- Histrionic personality disorder
- Narcissistic personality disorder
- Avoidant personality disorder
- Dependent personality disorder
- Obsessive compulsive personality disorder
It’s important to remember that although someone can carry a diagnosis from one of the 10 personality disorders listed above, a diagnosis does not define their entire personality. Behaviors, habits, and negative tendencies can be corrected—keep this in mind as you explore the three personality disorder clusters.
Personality Disorder Clusters: Group A
This particular cluster of personality disorders is typically defined by social withdrawal and a tendency toward social awkwardness. Those who struggle with the disorders in this cluster suffer from distorted cognitive thinking.
- Paranoid personality disorder, a condition that is often 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, which 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, a condition characterized by oddities in both appearance and behavior. Individuals with this illness might have strange beliefs, such as magical thinking. Like those with schizoid personality disorder, they may avoid social relationships: not because they lack the desire to have these close relationships with others, but because they fear them.
Which Cluster A Personality Disorder Is Most Common?
Schizoid personality disorder is just barely the most common of the type A personality cluster disorders, diagnosed at 4.9% of the general population. Schizotypal personality disorder is diagnosed at 4.6% and paranoid personality disorder is diagnosed at 4.4%.
These numbers indicate that all three personality disorders in cluster A are almost equally common, but it’s possible that the real statistics are even higher. This is because individuals with personality cluster A disorder are often suspicious of treatment and may be resistant to seeking therapy due to their tendency to mistrust others.
Personality Disorder Clusters: Group B
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. The four group B personality clusters are:
- Antisocial personality disorder, which may cause someone 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, a condition 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, which can leave individuals feeling worthless, useless. They may 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 can be highly sensitive to criticism and rejection.
Narcissistic personality disorder is typically characterized by feelings of entitlement and a need to be admired or even worshiped by others. These individuals may 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.
Personality Disorder Clusters: Group C
The final cluster is marked by anxiety-ridden thoughts and behaviors. People with these personality disorders have serious fears that inhibit their everyday lives in frustrating and debilitating ways.
The three personality clusters composing this group includes:
- Avoidant personality disorder, a condition that can make 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, which can be characterized by an oft-lack of self-confidence and need to be cared for. Not only do they need help making important life decisions, but they might require help making mundane decisions on a day-to-day basis. Their biggest fear is usually abandonment, and they do whatever it takes to ensure upkeep of their relationships.
- Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder, which can cause 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.
What Are the Treatment and Recovery Options for Personality Disorder Clusters?
Unfortunately, there are no known cures for personality disorders. 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 evidence-based options that have been proven to help. The treatment options for all three personality disorder clusters include:
- 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 professional can help determine what kind of psychotherapy is best for an individual and their condition.
- 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 medications include antidepressants, mood stabilizers, anti-anxiety medications, and antipsychotic medications.
Can You Have Personality Disorders from All the Known Clusters?
It’s theoretically possible that someone could have multiple personality disorders from all the personality clusters but not very likely. As stated above, generally personality disorders are comorbid only within the same cluster.
For example, if you have avoidant personality disorder, you might exhibit some of the signs of schizoid personality disorder (lack of social interaction and lone-wolf behaviors.) This is because, again, it’s more likely that someone will meet some of the criteria for other conditions within the same personality disorder cluster than a different one.
Which Cluster of Personality Disorders Is the Hardest to Treat?
When it comes to understanding the effectiveness of treatment in regards to personality clusters, no cluster is harder (or easier to treat). What plays into the effectiveness of treatment is an individual’s willingness to seek counseling or psychiatry services, and how severe their symptoms are.
Personality disorder clusters, group A, B, or C, can cause significant impairment. With the right treatment options (listed above) and a willingness to work with a mental health provider, there’s no reason that someone with a personality disorder could not enjoy their daily life, work, personal interests, and relationships.