Personality disorders are mental disorders that are rigid and long-term. When someone has a personality disorder, it can significantly affect their daily life including their relationships, their job, and their overall functionality. A question people have is what are the 3 types of personality disorders. This question is common because personality disorders are grouped into three categories, based on similarities within each of these categories.
What Are the 3 Types of Personality Disorders Called?
There aren’t actually three types of personality disorders. There are 10. Instead, when people ask what are the 3 types of personality disorders, they are talking about the groupings or “clusters” personality disorders are divided into.
Each of the 10 personality disorders falls into Cluster A, Cluster B or Cluster C. Many people with a personality disorder will have symptoms of other disorders as well. It’s relatively common for personality disorders that fall within the same category or cluster as one another to co-occur. As an example, someone with histrionic personality disorder, which is cluster B, may also have symptoms of borderline personality disorder, which is also a cluster B disorder.
Below are answers to the question “what are the 3 types of personality disorders called,” with an overview of each of the three clusters and which disorders fall into that grouping.
To give a brief overview that answers “what are the 3 types of personality disorders called,” is the following list, although there’s much more to it than this.
- Cluster A—odd, eccentric cluster
- Cluster B—overly emotional, erratic, unpredictable and dramatic cluster
- Cluster C—anxious and fearful cluster
Cluster A Personality Disorders
First, when answering “what are the 3 types of personality disorders called,” you would look at Cluster A. Cluster A personality disorders are the first of the 3 types of personality disorders, and they are defined by behaviors, thoughts, and emotions that are odd or eccentric.
Cluster A personality disorders are:
Paranoid Personality Disorder
With paranoid personality disorder, someone will have a pervasive sense of distrust for other people. They are suspicious of others, assume the worst and believe that other people want to harm them, lie to them, embarrass them or take advantage of them.
Someone with paranoid personality disorder will often work to protect themselves from these perceived threats. They will form a barrier between themselves and others as part of these attempts to protect themselves.
When a person has paranoid personality disorder, they are often very jealous, hold grudges, and they will attack others if they feel they are being threatened. People with paranoid personality disorder tend to have distortions in their thinking and perceptions, and even when something is entirely harmless, they will read ill-intent into it.
Because of their distrust and sense of suspicion, people with paranoid personality disorder typically don’t form close relationships or confide in other people. Essentially all of their emotions are dominated by their lack of trust and their sense of aggression or hostility.
Schizoid Personality Disorder
Schizoid personality is part of Cluster A disorders as well. The defining characteristics of schizoid personality disorder include detachment from other people and limited emotional expression. Someone with schizoid personality disorder will typically isolate themselves socially and they don’t enjoy, value or seek out close relationships.
Schizoid personality disorder can mean someone feels very little pleasure in most of life’s activities, and these people may appear detached and cold. Someone with schizoid personality disorder won’t understand or recognize social cues or norms, and they will usually have limited facial expressions. This is one of the rarer personality disorders you’ll see as you explore questions such as “what are the 3 types of personality disorders.”
Schizotypal Personality Disorder
When a person has schizotypal personality disorder, they will have extreme discomfort in social situations, and they aren’t able to form or maintain close relationships with others. Signs of schizotypal personality disorder include social isolation and a sense of being distant or reserved from others.
Schizotypal personality disorder is different from schizoid personality disorder because it also tends to include cognitive and perceptual distortions. For example, someone with schizotypal personality disorder might see objects that no one else can see or they may have magical thinking. Magical thinking means someone believes they can control others with their thinking.
It’s more common to see the occurrence of schizotypal personality disorder in families where there is a history of schizophrenia, which is a severe mental disorder defined by psychosis.
Cluster B Personality Disorders
As was touched on at the start of this post exploring what are the 3 types of personality disorders, cluster B disorders are defined by someone having overly emotional, dramatic or erratic responses or behaviors.
There are four cluster B personality disorders.
Antisocial Personality Disorder
Antisocial personality disorder is one that’s sometimes seen in serious criminals and serial killers, although as with other personality disorders it occurs along a spectrum and in some people can be more severe than in others.
Someone with antisocial personality disorder will show an ongoing disregard for the feelings and well-being of others. They will have behaviors that seem hostile and aggressive, and lying, deceit, and manipulation are common signs of antisocial personality disorder. With antisocial personality disorder, the signs may start occurring in childhood. This is in contrast to many other personality disorders, which tend not to start to appear until late adolescence or early adulthood.
Someone with antisocial personality disorder will behave impulsively with little to no consideration for consequences, and they will put themselves and others in dangerous situations. There is no remorse for the harm or pain caused to others in most cases, although some people with antisocial personality disorder learn how to pretend they have remorse.
There is usually no accountability or responsibility taken for one’s actions when antisocial personality disorder is present.
Histrionic Personality Disorder
Histrionic personality disorder, which is a cluster B disorder, is defined by dramatic, attention-seeking behaviors. Someone with histrionic personality disorder finds it uncomfortable NOT to be the center of attention. Someone with this disorder may be very theatrical and may dress or behave in ways to draw as much attention to themselves as possible.
Other signs of histrionic personality disorder can include insincerity or rapidly changing emotions. They don’t like to be alone but also have trouble forming truly close relationships with other people.
Someone with this cluster B personality disorder can be easily influenced by others.
Narcissistic Personality Disorder
Narcissistic personality disorder has symptoms that include a sense of entitlement and a need for admiration. Someone with narcissistic personality disorder will often have an inflated sense of self but at the same time a fragile ego. When someone has this cluster B disorder, they will believe they are unique, special and deserve treatment that’s in-line with how special they are.
This disorder can lead to a preoccupation with ideas of power, success and beauty. This preoccupation causes the affected person to neglect other areas of their daily life and people with narcissistic personality disorder don’t put effort into achieving goals. They tend to believe things should just happen for them.
If something happens that challenges a person’s perception of themselves as special and great, it can be extremely distressing for them. When this occurs, a person with narcissistic personality disorder may act out with anger or hostility. A lack of empathy and superficial relationships are also defining characteristics of narcissistic personality disorder.
Borderline Personality Disorder
Borderline personality disorder is one of the cluster B disorders that’s most widely studied, and the most is known about. Borderline personality disorder is characterized by intense emotions and moods, and unstable, erratic behaviors. There can be fast shifts in the mood of someone with borderline personality disorder, and other defining characteristics can include outbursts of anger, substance abuse, binge eating and self-injury.
With borderline personality disorder, an affected person’s viewpoints are all-or-nothing. For example, they will see someone as all bad or all good. They may idealize someone, and then that can quickly turn to characterizing the other person as bad or evil.
Someone with borderline personality disorder will usually have a lot of change in their life, whether it be related to careers, homes, relationships, or goals for their life.
Cluster C Personality Disorders
So finally, when answering the question of “what are the 3 types of personality disorders,” you come to cluster C. Cluster C personality disorders are grouped together because they are characterized with fearful or anxious behaviors, thoughts and beliefs.
Avoidant Personality Disorder
When someone has avoidant personality disorder, they have intense feelings of shyness and an extreme fear of rejection. Unlike some other personality disorders, with avoidant personality disorder the person will often feel lonely and crave social connections and relationships, but they are too afraid to make it happen.
Features of avoidant personality disorder include feelings of inadequacy, avoiding social activities or work that requires social interactions, avoiding forming relationships, and being highly sensitive to rejection or criticism, whether real or perceived.
Dependent Personality Disorder
Dependent personality disorder is a cluster C disorder that leads someone to rely heavily on other people in an unhealthy way. Someone with dependent personality disorder will rely on other people to meet their emotional and physical needs. They will often rely on other people to make decisions for them.
Someone with dependent personality disorder tends to have little to no self-confidence and has fears of being alone. Submissiveness and an inability to disagree with other people occurs with dependent personality disorder.
Someone with this disorder may be accepting or tolerant of toxic or even abusive relationships. A person will feel very upset when a relationship ends, and they will try to start a new one immediately.
Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder
Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder is not exactly the same as obsessive-compulsive disorder, although there are some similarities. Someone with obsessive-compulsive personality disorder is obsessed with order and having control over people and situations.
This personality disorder can be characterized by working all the time and therefore not forming relationships, and having very high, impossible standards for one’s self and for others. People with obsessive-compulsive personality disorder may be preoccupied with rules and details, and they lack flexibility regarding values or ethics.
Summing Up—What Are the 3 Types of Personality Disorders
If you have ever wondered what are the 3 types of personality disorders, you were likely wondering about the “clusters.” There are ten personality disorders, but they are grouped into three categories based on shared features.
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Burgess, Lana. “What Are Cluster B Personality Disorders.” Medical News Today. January 4, 2018. Accessed January 28, 2019.
Mayo Clinic Staff. “Schizoid Personality Disorder.” Mayo Clinic. Accessed January 28, 2019.