How Distinct are the Personality Disorders?

Personalty Disorders are a type of mental health problem. They are characterized by patterns of behavior that are difficult to change, and affect a persons life in many ways. Often, the most noticeable effects of a personality disorder is in how the person interacts with others. It is thought personality disorders form early, often rooted in childhood experience.

Personality disorders are divided into three clusters:

Cluster A: the odd or eccentric disorders

  • Paranoid Personality Disorder: suspicion and mistrust of others
  • Schizoid Personality Disorder: detachment from others
  • Schizotypal Personality Disorder: discomfort with others, distorted thoughts

Cluster B: the dramatic, emotional, or erratic disorders

  • Borderline Personality Disorder: Unstable relationships, self-image, behavior and emotions
  • Histrionic Personality Disorder: need for attention, excessive emotions
  • Narcissistic Personality Disorder: grandiosity, need for admiration, and lack of empathy
  • Antisocial Personality Disorder: lack of empathy, manipulative, impulsive

Cluster C: the anxious or fearful disorders

  • Avoidant Personality Disorder: feelings of social inadequacy and inhibition
  • Dependent Personality Disorder: need to be cared for by others
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder: perfectionism, rigidity, and conformity

How distinct are the different personality disorders? Do the different labels actually represent different disorders, or do they really overlap? Many people have argued they labels are not helpful at all, and should not be used. However, at least one recent study has shown the different labels really do represent distinct disorders, making them invaluable for clinicians.

See Interpersonal dysfunction in personality disorders: A meta-analytic review.