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The three clusters of personality disorders


You will find 10 distinct types of personality disorders listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition, (DSM-V). The different personality disorders are put into one of three clusters based on similar characteristics assigned to each cluster:

Cluster A personality disorders – odd, eccentric
Cluster B personality disorders – dramatic, emotional, and erratic
Cluster C personality disorders – anxious, fearful

It's common for people to receive a diagnosis of more than one of the personality disorder types, most commonly within the same cluster. As we explore further, you'll begin to see how the four common features come together to manifest in the different personality disorders.

Personality Disorder Types

The 10 personality disorder types (list of personality disorders) have descriptive similarities that allow them to fit into one of the three cluster categories. The American Psychiatric Association (APA) has suggested further investigation of an alternative model of categorization for the different personality disorders in hopes of adding clarity to this current approach. Until development of a new model, the DSM-V (APA, 2013) adheres to the cluster grouping convention:

Cluster A Personality Disorders

Deemed the odd and eccentric cluster, Cluster A Personality Disorders include paranoid personality disorder, schizoid personality disorder, and schizotypal personality disorder. If you know someone with an inflexible, long-term pattern of social awkwardness and social withdrawal punctuated by distorted thinking, he or she may have one of the Cluster A conditions.

Cluster B Personality Disorders

Considered the dramatic, emotional, and erratic group, Cluster B Personality Disorders include borderline personality disorder, narcissistic personality disorder, histrionic personality disorder, and antisocial personality disorder. If you know someone with marked and persistent impulse control and emotional regulation issues, he or she may suffer from one of the Cluster B disorders.

Cluster C Personality Disorders

Thought of as the anxious, fearful group, Cluster C Personality Disorders include avoidant personality disorder, dependent personality disorder, and obsessive-compulsive personality disorder. The common factor of these three disorders is that those suffering from them have high levels of anxiety. People who have a persistent pattern of obsessive and compulsive thoughts and behaviors, feelings of inadequacy, or have an inordinate need to be taken care of by others may have one of the disorders in Cluster C.

To receive a diagnosis of a personality disorder, the person must exhibit a long-term and pervasive pattern of the behaviors and symptoms. Because of this, people sometimes don't receive a diagnosis until adulthood, at which time the onset of the disorder is traced back to childhood or adolescence. Most personality disorders decrease in intensity with age. People frequently experience the most troubling symptoms during their 40s or 50s.

When learning about personality disorders, it's important to remember that everyone may exhibit some of these disturbing personality traits at one time or another. But personality disorder diagnostic criteria require a long-term, pervasive pattern of these traits. In other words, the person must exhibit these behaviors for observation repeatedly regardless of time, place, or situation.