Clusters of Personality Defined

Dr. Melanie Cabrera Image


     Before we go any further, let me better define “cluster B” personality disorders. In clinical assessment of personality disorders, there are three “clusters” or groupings. Cluster A, which includes paranoid personality disorder, schizoid personality disorder, and schizotypal personality disorder is characterized by odd and eccentric thinking and behavior. These people tend to keep to themselves for the most part, but are either paranoid that someone or something is “out to get them” or have otherwise odd ways of thinking about things. Sure, we do see some paranoia with our narcissists, but that is not their predominant trait. With schizoid personality, they absolutely prefer their own company and are indifferent to other people. Think of a hermit…they just go about their business, in their own little world, and do not interact. With schizotypal, we see more along the lines of eccentric ways of dress, magical thinking (speaks and listens only to angels, for example), and also prefers to be alone as they have significant social anxiety. Those with cluster A are not out to harm. If anything, they’d much prefer to be left alone!

“Malignant Narcissists” – the most overt of the overt, but with absolute and total disregard for other people at almost all times, in public and within their own family life (if they have one).

     Cluster B’s on the other hand, are overly dramatic, hostile, vindictive, and unpredictable in their behavior. This includes borderline personality disorder, narcissistic personality disorder, histrionic personality disorder, and antisocial personality disorder. The main theme is “look at me! See me!” But they do this in ways that have little regard for those around them unless and until they seek treatment. One of the main differentiations between borderline personality disorder and narcissistic personality disorder, according to current understanding, is that those struggling with borderline personality disorder are acutely aware of their difficulties with interpersonal relationships, have profound empathy for others who suffer or have suffered from trauma, and have a vast capacity for love. Narcissists suppress all of this out of their existence. For your own reference, but not pertinent to our discussions, those with histrionic personality disorder are perpetual victims, constantly need attention, think relationships with others are closer than they are, and are easily influenced by others. Did I mention they are almost always dramatic? From speech to the very way they dress, this personality construct drives them to be in the spotlight. Underneath, they are so very fragile and will acknowledge that, however. Antisocials are another matter, however, and it is not unheard of for narcissistic personality and antisocial personality to collide in one individual. These are our “malignant narcissists” – the most overt of the overt, but with absolute and total disregard for other people at almost all times, in public and within their own family life (if they have one). These have a complete and total lack of remorse for what they do to others, feel they are above the law, and do not value human (or other life). They will steal, cheat, physically and otherwise harm, and lie as long as it gets them what they desire. No one matters but them. If you have fallen prey to a malignant narcissist, do not try to go this alone when you are ready to leave– reach out to your local domestic violence agency to create a solid safety plan. For help with this step, please also contact me directly via my website at I’ll help connect you.

     Cluster C personality disorders are the most benign of the group in terms of harm to others. They are fearful and avoidant of people and situations. This includes avoidant personality disorder, dependent personality disorder and obsessive compulsive personality disorder. They avoid people and social situations, become clingy and completely take on the personality of whom they are with, or otherwise are extreme perfectionists and must have things just so to feel safe. However, there is an over-abundance of empathy here, irrespective of the kind of personality disorder, and they are only hoping to prevent more anxiety and pain. They don’t want to harm others or make them feel as they do.

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