If you're seeing this message, it means we're having trouble loading external resources on our website.

If you're behind a web filter, please make sure that the domains *.kastatic.org and *.kasandbox.org are unblocked.

Main content

Personality disorders

Personality disorders involve significant deviations in how people experience and behave in the world, leading to distress and functional impairment. The video categorizes these disorders into three clusters: A (odd or eccentric), B (dramatic, emotional, or erratic), and C (anxiety and fearfulness). Each cluster contains specific disorders, each with unique characteristics and behaviors. Created by Arshya Vahabzadeh.

Want to join the conversation?

Video transcript

- [Instructor] Everybody has a personality. And part of having a personality is how we experience the world, our inner experience of the world, our emotional experience, and also how we behave outwardly. So, what happens when we say somebody has a personality disorder? Well what we're saying there is that there's a really marked deviation from what we expect and how we expect them to behave, or how they are experiencing the world. And that really leads to a great deal of distress and impairment in their function. Now, saying somebody has a personality disorder is actually a controversial thing, and actually, this whole category has been controversial in many regards. But there are lots of details, and the research hasn't fully validated some of the things I'm saying and further what needs to be done. So please bear that in mind. One of the things that we know in the current categorization, there are ten personality disorders, and they are separated out into three big clusters, as we can see the three circles. We have Cluster A, Cluster B, and Cluster C. As a general overview, the personality disorders in Cluster A are often defined as being odd or eccentric. Those in B are often labeled as being dramatic, emotional, or erratic. And finally, in Cluster C, these personality disorders are often described as encompassing anxiety and fearfulness features. One of the things that you may have noticed is that there's a fair degree of overlap between these clusters. And it may very well be that, even though there's ten different types of personality disorder, an individual may very well have one or more types. So let's start with A. In our A category, we have three different personality disorders: paranoid personality disorder, schizoid personality disorder, and schizotypal personality disorder. So let's start off with paranoid personality disorder. The key feature that really causes impairment here is this really profound distrust and suspicion of other people. And that would be in keeping with the name, right? Paranoid. Let's look at schizoid. Someone who is schizoid is often very emotionally detached, detached in their relationships and shows little emotion. And finally we get to schizotypal. People with schizotypal personality disorder not only tend to avoid close relationships, but they also have this kind of odd or magical thinking that would really differentiate them from the other Cluster A personality disorders. Now there's a whole heap of extra criteria and descriptions, but this is just an overview. So, as we can see, these individuals are somewhat odd and somewhat detached from the people that are around them, and they may have unusual beliefs or degrees of distrust or suspiciousness. Let's move on to Cluster B. This is a cluster that has four of the personality disorders, including anti-social, borderline, histrionic, and narcissistic. As I mentioned, Cluster B often contains dramatic, emotional, or erratic traits. When we think about people with anti-social personality disorder, they tend to have little or no regard for others. They're often involved in the legal system, they may commit crimes, and they will often show no remorse. They're very inconsiderate of others. And that would be consistent with the name, right? Anti-social, they're not social people. They're the opposite of social. Secondly, we have borderline. People on the borderline are always at the brink of having some kind of emotional or relationship issue. They have very unstable relationships. Their emotions can actually be pretty unstable too, and they could have a really variable self image. They can be pretty impulsive, and this can put them in quite a lot of danger. Next we have histrionic. People with histrionic personality disorder are very attention seeking. They might wear very bright clothes, they might wear things that are very provocative, and they can display a lot of their emotions outwardly. Finally, in this category, we have narcissistic. People with narcissistic personality disorder have huge egos. They might think that they're the best thing since sliced bread. They have a lot of need for admiration and praise, and they don't take it lightly if you try and criticize them. One of the other ways to describe them is being very grandiose. They think very, very highly of themselves, much more highly than you would think of them. And finally, let's move on to our last cluster, the anxious and fearful Cluster C. In this cluster, we have three different personality disorders. We have avoidant, we have dependent, and we have obsessive-compulsive personality disorder. I'm going to stress that this is a personality disorder here, as opposed to obsessive-compulsive disorder. Do not mix them, and I'll tell you why in a minute. Let's start with avoidant. The main issue with people who are avoidant is that they're very inhibited, they feel inadequate, and generally they try to avoid putting themselves in a situation where they can be criticized. Secondly, we have dependent. People who are dependent are, as the name says, very dependent. They can be very submissive, they can be very clingy. They may really need the help of others all the time. Now, I want to spend a second on obsessive-compulsive personality disorder because these people are very focused on their life being ordered, things being perfect, and for them to be in control of everything that's going on. And the reason why this is actually different from obsessive-compulsive disorder, which is another condition, is that with obsessive-compulsive personality disorder, the focus is on order and perfection and them being in control. They don't necessarily have to check the locks and the windows, or repeatedly wash their hands, be very concerned about germs or bugs, or things like that, that some people with actual obsessive-compulsive disorder will be. So these people, the real focus here for obsessive-compulsive personality disorder is this focus on control, orderliness, and perfection. And they do it to such an extent that it really annoys other people and can delay projects, like at work and at school because they're hyper-focused on these issues. So this overview of the ten different personality disorders, over these three different A, B, C clusters, and you can go into far more detail, and there is a large degree of controversy over these because not all the research has fully validated this concept, but this is the broad concept that you need to be aware of.