What is a Personality Disorder? | The Three Clusters Explained


three clusters of personality disorders

What is a Personality Disorder? | The Three Clusters Explained

Thursday, July 9th, 2020

Everyone has a unique personality. Each person thinks, feels, and behaves differently. Personality is developed through experiences, environment, and inherited traits. We often speak of someone having a “great personality” as a reason for enjoying the company of that person. So, what is a personality disorder? When aspects of the personality become troublesome, for the individual as well as for those around them, they may be diagnosed with a disorder. The diagnoses are generally categorized into three clusters.

What is a Personality Disorder?

A personality typically develops early in a person’s life and then stays relatively the same as they age. When someone has a personality disorder, their way of thinking or behaving deviates from their culture’s expectations and causes distress to them and others, in addition to problems functioning.

Personality disorders are categorized into ten specific types, within three clusters. The American Psychiatric Association (APA) states that personality disorders affect at least two of the following areas:

  • Way of thinking about oneself and others
  • Way of responding emotionally
  • Way of relating to other people
  • Way of controlling one’s behavior

Cluster A

The first of the three clusters, Cluster A, is described as the odd or eccentric cluster of personalities. Social awkwardness and social withdrawal are common features. Although people with Cluster A personality disorders may have a strong link to a relative who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia, these disorders are typically less extensive and impact daily functioning less than schizophrenia.

People with Cluster A personality disorders tend to have relationship issues because their behavior is seen as peculiar, suspicious, or detached. Three types of personality disorder are included in the first cluster.

Paranoid personality disorder. Affecting between 1% and 2% of adults in the US, paranoid personality disorder symptoms include chronic, pervasive distrust of other people; suspicion of being deceived or exploited by others, including friends, family, and partners; angry outbursts in response to deception; and cold, secretive, or jealous behavior.

Schizoid personality disorder. Characterized by social isolation and indifference toward other people, schizoid personality disorder affects more men than women. People with this relatively rare disorder often are described as cold or withdrawn, rarely have close relationships with other people, and may be preoccupied with introspection and fantasy.

Schizotypal personality disorder. Symptoms of schizotypal personality disorder include odd speech, behavior, and appearance, as well as strange beliefs and difficulty forming relationships.

Cluster B

The second of the three clusters includes disorders described as dramatic, emotional, or erratic. Impulse control and emotional regulation are problems for people with disorders categorized in Cluster B. Healthy relationships are almost impossible for people in this cluster.

People with Cluster B personality disorders tend to experience very intense emotions or engage in extremely impulsive, theatrical, promiscuous, or law-breaking behaviors. Four types of personality disorders are included in Cluster B.

Antisocial personality disorder. Showing up earlier than most other personality disorders, antisocial personality disorder tends to show up in childhood. Symptoms include a disregard for rules and social norms and a lack of empathy for other people.

Borderline personality disorder. Characterized by emotional instability, intense interpersonal relationships, and impulsive behaviors.

Histrionic personality disorder. With a need to always be the center of attention that often leads to socially inappropriate behavior to get attention, people with histrionic personality disorder may have frequent mood swings as well.

Narcissistic personality disorder. Associated with self-centeredness, exaggerated self-image, and lack of empathy for others.

Cluster C

The third of the three clusters is characterized as the anxious or fearful cluster. This group features an overlap of symptoms of anxiety and depressive disorders.

There are three personality disorders included in Cluster C.

Avoidant personality disorder. Characterized by a disregard for rules and a lack of empathy and remorse, this disorder can show up during childhood.

Dependent personality disorder. Involves a fear of being alone and often causes those who have the disorder to do things to try to get other people to take care of them.

Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder. Characterized by a preoccupation with orderliness, perfection, and control of relationships, this is not the same as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

Treatment Options

Psychotherapy has been proven effective for treating the personality disorders within the three clusters. The individual has the opportunity during psychotherapy to gain insight and a better understanding of the disorder and its symptoms. Being able to talk about their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors is also effective in treatment. During psychotherapy, the individual can further realize how their behavior affects others around them as they learn how to manage their symptoms and reduce the behaviors that may be causing problems in their ability to function.

You Can Get Control of Your Life with R&A Therapeutic Partners

We offer personalized sessions in a comfortable, supportive environment that will help you understand and manage the symptoms you may be experiencing. We urge you to contact us for help in moving forward toward a healthy change in your life. We also help individuals and families with therapeutic placement when the challenges someone may be experiencing require a more intensive and structured treatment approach. Contact the Miami therapeutic consultants, Raymond Estefania and Ana Moreno, to learn more about the services R&A Therapeutic Partners offers. Call us at 786-452-7352 to schedule your appointment.

At R&A Therapeutic Partners Raymond Estefania and Ana Moreno specialize in substance use and mental health disorder evaluations, treatment, intervention and therapeutic/educational consulting for clients throughout the greater South Florida area, as well as nationally and internationally. For more resources and information please visit Therapeutic-Partners.com or on Facebook.

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