What Are the Different Types of Personality Disorders?

Cluster A, Cluster B, and Cluster C Personality Disorders

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 United States population struggles with at least one personality disorder.

It is possible for personality disorders to be comorbid, meaning the same person can have a personality and another mental health condition. Also, they can have features of more than one personality disorder at the same time, either within the same cluster or in different clusters. The characteristics of personality disorders depend on the specific groups and disorders.

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

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Personality Disorder Classifications

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

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

Cluster A

  • Paranoid personality disorder
  • Schizoid personality disorder
  • Schizotypal personality disorder

Cluster B

Cluster C

  • Avoidant personality disorder
  • Dependent personality disorder
  • Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder

Unspecified personality disorder

Cluster A Personality Disorders

Cluster A personality disorders involve challenges in relating to other people. 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 that are considered odd or eccentric:

  • Paranoid personality disorder: Paranoid personality disorder involves an ongoing pattern of distrust and suspiciousness. People with this personality disorder may interpret others' motives as malevolent (malicious or hostile). They may have tendencies to expect others will trick or harm them and may be offended easily.
  • Schizoid personality disorder: Schizoid personality disorder involves a prolonged lack of interest in close relationships, not caring about praise vs. criticism, not caring about other people's feelings, and having limited emotions and feelings for others. People with schizoid personality disorder tend to avoid socializing with others and situations in which it is likely that they would be interacting with others.
  • Schizotypal personality disorder: Schizotypal personality disorder involves odd, 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 disorder of disturbances.

Cluster B Personality Disorders

Cluster B personality disorders involve challenges in controlling emotions. 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, leading to a violation of those rights, repeatedly. People with this personality disorder often break the law and harm others without feeling guilty or being able to feel empathy for those they harm.
  • Borderline personality disorder: Borderline personality disorder involves an ongoing pattern of instability in relationships, self-image, and emotions that impacts functioning in work or social settings and causes significant distress. People with this personality disorder may struggle with substance use disorder, overeating, self-harm, intense mood fluctuations, outbursts, or an unstable self-image or self-concept.
  • Histrionic personality disorder: Histrionic personality disorder, previously known as hysterical personality disorder, involves a pattern of exaggerated emotionality and attention-seeking. People with histrionic personality disorder may be considered self-centered by others.
  • Narcissistic personality disorder: Narcissistic personality disorder involves an inflated sense of self-importance, accomplishment, and ability. People with this personality disorder are often unable to feel empathy for 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 when faced with criticism or rejection, feelings of inadequacy, and social inhibition (conscious or subconscious avoidance of a social interaction). People with this personality disorder experience symptoms severe enough that their ability to function in terms of work and maintain healthy relationships are compromised and they experience distress.
  • Dependent personality disorder: Dependent personality disorder is a pattern of an excessive need to be taken care of, submissiveness, and fears of separation.
  • Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder: Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder involves excessive perfectionism, need for order, inability to compromise, and a preoccupation with rules, order, and work. People with this personality disorder, unlike people with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), feel justified 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 entirely clear what causes personality disorders. Research has shown that there may be a genetic component involved in their development.

Abuse and childhood trauma and neglect are also potential contributions to personality disorders. For example, people who experienced childhood trauma were found to be more vulnerable to developing borderline personality disorder.

Other environmental and situational factors may impact the development of personality disorders, including experiences and relationships, even those not related to trauma, neglect, or abuse.

Child Abuse Helpline

If you are a victim of child abuse or know someone who might be, call or text the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 800-422-4453 to speak with a professional crisis counselor.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

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

Additionally, higher rates of personality disorders are seen among people who struggle with addiction (substance misuse 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 a psychologist. This is done by assessing the symptoms and the person as a whole. The process may include a physical exam, a complete medical history, questionnaires, and testing to rule out any other possible explanations for the symptoms.

Personality disorders are primarily treated with psychotherapy, which is 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

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

Mental Health Helpline

If you or a loved one is struggling with a personality disorder, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

Summary

Personality disorders are mental health disorders that lead to significant functional impairment or subjective distress. There are 10 specific personality disorders, as well other specified personality disorders that do not meet the specific requirements of one of the other ten personality disorders.

The specific personality disorders are organized by type and classified as Cluster A, Cluster B, or Cluster C personality disorders.

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

A Word From Verywell

Experiencing symptoms of a personality disorder, or suspecting a possible personality disorder, can be difficult. It can be hard not only for the person experiencing the symptoms, but also the people around them, including family members and friends.

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

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

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19 Sources
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