The wacky, the wild and the worried: The 3 clusters of personality disorders

The wacky, the wild and the worried: The 3 clusters of personality disorders

The young woman who screams and demoralizes people in public because she does not get her way and threatens to cut herself if her boyfriend breaks up with her, the man who believes he can do no wrong because he is highly educated and knows more than everyone else, and the woman who dresses in a tight skirt and stilettos to garner attention at work all have something in common. They all have the distinct characteristics of personality disorders, a diagnosis listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-V).

What are personality disorders?

Personality disorders are long-term distinctive, maladaptive characteristics that are embedded into an individual’s personality and lead to impairment or distress. They are difficult to diagnose and even more difficult to treat because they are ingrained in the person. They are more common than most people assume. One study reports that as many as 14.8 percent of American adults have at least one personality disorder, and many show traits of or have multiple personality disorders. Many have co-occurring conditions, such as alcohol abuse, substance abuse or anger issues.

Ten personality disorders are classified into three clusters: A, B and C. Cluster A encompasses paranoid, schizoid and schizotypal personality disorders. Cluster B encompasses antisocial, borderline, histrionic and narcissistic personality disorders. Cluster C encompasses avoidant, dependent and obsessive-compulsive personality disorders. Cluster C personality disorders are most prevalent. With the help of this mnemonic device, clusters A, B and C can more easily be remembered by describing them as: wacky, wild and worried.

Personality disorder causes and cures

Although the origin and cause of personality disorders is not proven and is controversial, many theories exist. Many believe that these maladaptive patterns are the result of dysfunctional early environments that did not allow for adaptive healthy patterns. Genetic and psychobiologic factors may also play a role.

Since these personality traits are deeply ingrained and can be traced back to early adolescence or adulthood, they are extremely difficult to treat. Borderline personality disorder is most amenable to treatment. Treatment approaches include cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, mentalization-based therapy, transference-focused psychotherapy and pharmacotherapy, which could involve typical and atypical antipsychotics, antidepressants and mood stabilizers.

Taking a deeper look into the details of each of these clusters can give affected individuals and their loved ones insight and enable them to seek help. Although these engrained maladaptive behaviors are difficult to treat, it is important to seek help.

The Dual Diagnosis Helpline is available 24/7 to connect you or your loved one with a multitude of tools and treatment therapies. If you or a loved one is currently seeking recovery from a mental health disorder, substance abuse problem or a co-occurring condition, please don’t hesitate to call 855-981-6047.

For more details about each of these personality disorders, read more blogs in this series.