Personality Disorders: Cluster B’s

May 27, 2023

Statistically speaking, Cluster B disorders—the “dramatic and erratic” of the bunch—are considered the least common and, sometimes, the most dangerous personality disorders. This group consists of four different conditions: antisocial, borderline, histrionic, and narcissistic, each of which are characterized by a chronic desire for attention, strong emotional responses, and dramatic or attention-seeking behavior.

Similar to the way dissociative identity disorder was once called multiple personality disorder or that illness anxiety disorder was called hypochondria, antisocial personality disorder used to be known as sociopathy. Unfortunately, a lot of the qualms people have about so-called sociopaths remain today, even though ASPD is an officially recognized condition that many psychologists have experience treating and helping people with. 

ASPD has a lot of traits that the general public would consider risky or dangerous. Often shamelessly manipulative, people with antisocial personalities tend to be misanthropic, using those they know for personal gain and paying little attention to the strain that may put on their relationships. They can also be impulsive and belligerent, leading to criminal behavior that only adds to the risks of their general trickiness. All that said, having ASPD does not make someone intrinsically more likely to commit crime or hurt others, and many people with the disorder have learned to live peacefully among others despite whatever urges may occur. 

The second Cluster B condition is borderline. It’s not necessarily the most common, but it is the most diagnosed of the personality disorders, probably because people with BPD often have comorbid disorders or problems that they’re more likely to get help with. Borderline PD presents in a lot of different ways depending on its severity and cause. 

One widespread symptom is emotions that are either extremely strong or not there at all; it’s common for people with the disorder to describe feeling “empty” or dissociated, and often the only break from this feeling is when the person is angry: anger is a common emotion in people with borderline personality disorder and is often felt very strongly. Other common symptoms include a fragmented sense of identity, intense and unstable relationships spurred by an inability to form healthy attachments, self-harm and suicidal ideation, and a chronic fear of abandonment that can result in either self-isolation or stubborn clinginess with certain people.

Third of the Cluster B’s is histrionic personality disorder, which is a culmination of many different traits. These may seem unrelated or chosen at random, but they all have the end goal of gaining attention. People with histrionic PD tend to feel uncomfortable when they’re not the center of attention, so they repeatedly make up stories, dress in certain ways, act provocatively, and exaggerate their reactions around others. Like the other personality disorders, histrionic PD includes a limited expression of emotions and lack of empathy and awareness towards other people.

Lastly is narcissistic personality disorder, which is different than narcissism as a trait because it is chronic and difficult to argue with. People with NPD swim in their own grandiosity and megalomania, believing themselves better and more capable than others in most, if not all, regards. They often think their achievements are greater than they are and are occupied by dreams of power, wealth, and fame. Because of all this, these narcissistic personalities tend to be very reactive to critiques, even constructive ones; they get offended easily and are unlikely to stick around if you don’t feed their ego in some way. 

Cluster B disorders are probably the most stigmatized of the personality disorders since they’re believed to have the most potential for personal harm. This may or may not be true; however, it’s important that we examine these situations on a case-by-case basis since it’s cruel to assume that anyone with a personality disorder is going to hurt us. 

Because of their noticeably altered behavior, many people with PD’s have a lack of experience interacting with others, and this in turn feeds their idiosyncrasies. This can’t be “fixed,” and having friends isn’t likely to change someone with a personality disorder, but kindness and understanding will always go farther than judgement. It also isn’t fair to treat someone differently for something they have no control over, so aside from being slightly more wary, try to treat those with PD’s like anyone else. They may not thank you, but it’s the right thing to do.

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