Overview of the Various Types of Personality Disorders

According to Muhlenberg College, as much as 15 percent of the American adult population seeks out mental health services within any given year. While not as severe as psychotic conditions, personality disorders can have debilitating effects in peoples’ lives.

Personality disorders may result from any number of genetic, environmental and physical causes. In general, personality disorders fall into three basic categories or ‘clusters’ – cluster A, cluster B and cluster C – based on the overall effects of each category’s symptoms.

What is a Personality Disorder?

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) defines a personality disorder as an ongoing pattern of inner perception and behavior that deviates from cultural norms. Other characteristics of personality disorders include:

  • Originates in adolescence or early adulthood
  • Entails a rigid, pervasive mindset regarding self and others
  • Causes considerable personal distress
  • Impairs a person’s ability to function in daily life
  • Exists as a chronic, long-term condition

According to the American Psychiatric Association, the DSM-V recognizes 10 distinct personality disorder types:

  • Obsessive compulsive personality
  • Paranoid personality
  • Dependent personality
  • Schizoid personality
  • Avoidant personality
  • Schizotypal personality
  • Narcissistic personality
  • Antisocial personality
  • Histrionic personality
  • Borderline personality

Each personality disorder type carries its own set of traits and impairments. In turn, each type falls within one of three cluster groups.

Cluster A – Odd, Bizarre, Eccentric

mental health

Personality mental health disorders make it difficult for people to function in everyday life.

Odd, bizarre and eccentric perceptions and behaviors characterize the personality disorders that fall within the cluster A category.

Cluster A personality disorders include:

  • Paranoid personality
  • Schizoid personality
  • Schizotypal personality

Someone affected by paranoid personality disorder remains suspicious and distrustful of others. Detachment and an overall disinterest in forming relationships with others characterize someone affected by schizoid personality. Schizotypal personality traits closely resemble those of schizoid personality, though people in this cluster also experience disordered thinking patterns, disordered perceptions and problems communicating with others.

Cluster B – Dramatic, Erratic

Personality disorders leaning more towards dramatic and/or erratic behavior displays fall in the cluster B category. These conditions include:

  • Antisocial personality
  • Borderline personality
  • Narcissistic personality
  • Histrionic personality

Someone with antisocial personality disorder has a genuine disregard for the feelings and safety of others. With borderline personality comes an overall sense of instability in regards to self, relationships and how a person behaves. People affected by narcissistic personality disorder have an overly developed sense of self-worth and sense of superiority over others. Histrionic personality disorder is characterized by an overly dramatic behavior display that others typically perceive as exaggerated.

Cluster C – Anxious, Fearful

Anxious and fearful behaviors best describe the Cluster C personality disorders. Cluster C personality disorders include:

  • Avoidant personality
  • Dependent personality
  • Obsessive-compulsive personality

Avoidant personality types have an extreme fear of criticism and rejection to the point where a person will avoid or withdraw from social encounters altogether. Dependent personality types rather need the approval and opinions of others to feel fulfilled and validated. People affected by obsessive-compulsive personality have an intense need to control their environment as well as the people around them. Without this control, a person experiences a level of anxiety that makes it difficult to function normally in everyday life.

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