Types of personality disorders and categorization

Personality disorders are mental health disorders that involve ongoing thoughts and behaviors that prevent a person from functioning well in society. Nearly 10% of the US population suffers from at least one personality disorder.

It is possible for personality disorders to be comorbid, which means that the same person can have a personality and another mental health problem. Also, they may have features of more than one personality disorder at the same time, either in the same group or in different groups. The characteristics of personality disorders depend on the specific groups and disorders.

Read on to learn more about each specific group and disorder, what causes them, and how they are diagnosed, treated, and managed.

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Classifications of Personality Disorders

According to Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), there are 10 different personality disorders. These disorders are classified into three main groups: group A, group B and group C.

In addition to these personality disorders, a person may be diagnosed with another specified or unspecified personality disorder, meaning they have a personality disorder that does not qualify for a diagnosis of one of the 10 personality disorders.

Group A

  • paranoid personality disorder
  • Schizoid personality disorder
  • Schizotypal personality trouble

Group B

  • Antisocial personality disorder
  • borderline personality disorder
  • Theatrical personality trouble
  • Narcissistic personality disorder

Group C

  • avoidant personality disorder
  • dependent personality disorder
  • Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder

Personality disorder not otherwise specified

Group A Personality disorders

Cluster A personality disorders involve difficulty in relating to others. Paranoid personality disorder, schizoid personality disorder, and schizotypal personality disorder are cluster A personality disorders.

People with one of these personality disorders may have tendencies considered odd or eccentric:

  • paranoid personality disorder: Paranoid personality disorder involves an ongoing pattern of distrust and distrust. People with this personality disorder may interpret the motivations of others as malevolent (malicious or hostile). They may tend to expect others to deceive or hurt them and can be easily offended.
  • Schizoid personality disorder: Schizoid personality disorder involves a prolonged lack of interest in close relationships, not caring about praise over criticism, not caring about the feelings of others, and having limited emotions and feelings for others. People with schizoid personality disorder tend to avoid socializing with others and situations in which they are likely to interact with others.
  • Schizotypal personality disorder: Schizotypal personality disorder involves strange and eccentric thoughts, perceptions, speech, and behaviors. While the symptoms are severe enough to be diagnosed as a personality disorder, they are not severe enough to be diagnosed as schizophrenia, which is a psychotic disturbance disorder.

Cluster B personality disorders

Cluster B personality disorders involve challenges in emotional control. Antisocial personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, histrionic personality disorder, and narcissistic personality disorder are cluster B personality disorders.

People with one of these personality disorders may have tendencies that are considered dramatic, emotional, or erratic:

  • Antisocial personality disorder: Antisocial personality disorder is also called dissocial personality, psychopathic personality, and sociopathic personality. It involves not caring about the rights of others, which leads to violation of those rights, repeatedly. People with this personality disorder often break the law and hurt others without feeling guilty or being able to empathize with those they hurt.
  • borderline personality disorder: Borderline personality disorder involves an ongoing pattern of instability in relationships, self-image, and emotions that impacts functioning at work or in social settings and causes significant distress. People with this personality disorder may struggle with substance use disorder, overeating, self-harm, intense mood swings, outbursts, or an unstable self-image or self-concept .
  • Histrionic personality disorder: Histrionic personality disorder, formerly known as hysterical personality disorder, involves a pattern of exaggerated emotionality and attention seeking. People with histrionic personality disorder may be viewed as self-centered by others.
  • Narcissistic personality disorder: Narcissistic personality disorder involves an exaggerated sense of self-importance, accomplishment, and ability. People with this personality disorder are often unable to empathize with others.

Cluster C personality disorders

Cluster C personality disorders involve challenges with intense fears or anxious feelings. Avoidant personality disorder, dependent personality disorder, and obsessive-compulsive personality disorder are cluster C personality disorders, which are:

  • avoidant personality disorder: Avoidant personality disorder involves patterns of excessive sensitivity to criticism or rejection, feelings of inadequacy, and social inhibition (conscious or subconscious avoidance of a social interaction). People with this personality disorder have symptoms severe enough that their ability to function in terms of work and maintain healthy relationships is compromised and they experience distress.
  • dependent personality disorder: Dependent personality disorder is a pattern characterized by an excessive need for care, submissiveness, and fears of separation.
  • Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder: Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder involves excessive perfectionism, a need for order, an inability to compromise, and a preoccupation with rules, order, and work. People with this personality disorder, unlike people with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), feel vindicated as opposed to distressed by their thoughts and actions and, therefore, are less likely to recognize their symptoms as a problem.

Causes and risk factors

It is not known exactly what causes personality disorders. Research has shown that there may be a genetic component involved in their development.

Childhood abuse, trauma, and neglect are also potential contributors to personality disorders. For example, people who experienced childhood trauma have been found to be more vulnerable to developing borderline personality disorder.

Other environmental and situational factors can impact the development of personality disorders, including experiences and relationships, even those unrelated to trauma, neglect, or abuse.

Personality disorders can occur with other conditions in the same person at the same time, which is called comorbidity. For example, people with mood disorders have a high risk of at least one personality disorder.

In addition, higher rates of personality disorders are seen in people struggling with addiction (substance abuse disorder). However, it is unclear if one causes the other or if they are more likely to occur together for other reasons.

Diagnosis and management

Personality disorders are diagnosed by a qualified medical professional, such as a psychiatrist or psychologist. This is done by assessing the symptoms and the person as a whole. The process may include a physical exam, complete medical history, questionnaires, and tests to rule out any other possible explanation for the symptoms.

Personality disorders are mainly treated with psychotherapy, also called talk therapy. The most common forms of psychotherapy used to treat personality disorders include:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT)
  • group therapy
  • Psychoanalytic or psychodynamic therapy
  • Psychoeducation and supportive therapy

Although there are currently no medications that specifically treat personality disorders, medications can be used to treat some symptoms of personality disorders. Even though effective treatment is available, sometimes personality disorders go untreated because people with these symptoms and challenges do not always seek help.

Summary

Personality disorders are mental health disorders that result in significant functional impairment or subjective distress. There are 10 specific personality disorders, plus other specified personality disorders that do not meet the specific requirements for any of the other ten personality disorders.

Specific personality disorders are organized by type and categorized as cluster A, cluster B, or cluster C personality disorders.

Although the exact causes are unknown, personality disorders can result from genetics, abuse, childhood neglect, and other developmental experiences. People with personality disorders may be at increased risk of developing other psychiatric disorders. Personality disorders can be effectively treated with psychotherapy. Medications can also be used to manage symptoms.

A word from Verywell

It can be difficult to feel the symptoms of a personality disorder or suspect a possible personality disorder. It can be difficult not only for the person with the symptoms, but also for the people around them, including family members and friends.

If you or someone you know is struggling with a personality disorder or a suspected personality disorder, help is available. Seek help from a qualified healthcare professional, such as a psychiatrist or psychologist.

With treatment like psychotherapy, it is possible to overcome many daily challenges associated with personality disorders and lead a healthy and happy life.

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