Medical News Today: What to know about cluster A personality disorders

By | May 14, 2019
People define personality disorders in many different ways. According to one definition, a personality disorder is a mental health condition that affects how a person thinks and feels and how they relate to other people. Cluster A disorders usually involve awkwardness in social situations, distorted thinking, and distance from society and relationships.

There are 10 personality disorders in total, which healthcare professionals usually group in three categories: A, B, and C. The disorders within each category share some traits and symptoms. Group A comprises three specific disorders, which are called paranoid personality disorder, schizoid personality disorder, and schizotypal disorder.

However, a person may have multiple personality disorders from different clusters or display traits that overlap between different types of personality disorder. As a result, diagnosing a personality disorder can be challenging.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, more than 9% of adults in the United States have a personality disorder. The symptoms will usually persist for a long time, and they can cause distress or make it difficult for a person to live a normal life because of how they relate to others.

Cluster A personality disorders

There is some overlap between the three personality disorders in cluster A as certain traits and behaviors characterize them all, although to different extents. For example, all may cause social awkwardness, but this can range from a negative view of other people to a complete lack of interest in them, depending on the particular disorder.

Some people do not consider schizoid personality disorder to be a distinct condition.

Paranoid personality disorder

Woman with cluster a personality disorders outdoors shopping in flea market for clothes.
Cluster A personality disorders affect over 9% of U.S. adults.

A person with paranoid personality disorder may:

  • be suspicious of other people
  • view other people as spiteful or mean
  • assume that other people will cause them harm
  • assume that other people are untrustworthy

A person who has paranoid personality disorder may avoid becoming close to other people. They may choose not to share personal details or feelings with others.

People with paranoid personality disorder have a higher risk of depression than the general population. The disorder may increase the likelihood of aggressive or violent behavior, much of which is verbal.

Experiencing stress and trauma as a child may increase the risk of paranoid personality disorder. This trauma may include physical or emotional abuse and physical neglect. There may also be a link between brain injury and the development of paranoid personality disorder.

People with the disorder are frequently mistrustful of others. As a result, they may be less likely to take part in studies looking into the condition. Further research should lead the way to finding effective treatments for paranoid personality disorder.

Schizoid personality disorder

The common behavior traits of those with schizoid personality disorder include:

A person who has schizoid personality disorder may choose to spend the majority of their time alone, preferring solo activities and hobbies.

Schizoid personality disorder can cause a lack of interest in other people. A person who has the disorder may not seek intimacy or want to form close relationships. They may be inward-looking and become absorbed in a rich imaginative or fantasy life.

There is less research on schizoid personality disorder than on some other personality disorders. The authors of a 2019 study paper suggested that there is a link between schizoid personality disorder and suicide. Certain factors, such as being emotionally detached or living a solitary life, can cause mental pain and increase the risk for suicide.

Schizotypal disorder

Mature or senior man in house mixing food in bowl
People with schizotypal disorder may experience social anxiety and discomfort with close relationships.

People with schizotypal disorder are likely to display:

  • discomfort with close relationships
  • behavior that others may view as eccentric
  • social anxiety
  • unusual speech or behavior

Schizotypal disorder can cause a person to find social settings very difficult and relationships hard to form, which may lead to social isolation.

Schizotypal disorder can cause visual disturbances, such as seeing a flash of light or an object that is not there.

People may hold unusual beliefs or superstitions. For example, they might believe that they can read another person’s thoughts.

There are possible links between schizotypal personality disorder and schizophrenia. People who have schizotypal personality disorder may have a higher risk of developing schizophrenia.

Diagnosis

The diagnosis of personality disorders can be difficult. The symptoms are usually an exaggerated version of common personality traits, such as stress in social situations or mistrust of people.

If a personality disorder is the cause of a person’s symptoms, these symptoms will continue over an extended period and will usually have a significant effect on a person’s daily life or cause them distress.

A medical professional may spot a personality disorder when they are providing treatment or care for a separate health issue. These disorders will often exist alongside other mental health conditions, such as depression.

Doctors do not usually diagnose personality disorders in children and young people because the brain and personality are undergoing a lot of changes at this time. The symptoms of a personality disorder tend to first appear in older teenagers and young adults.

Some factors might increase a person’s risk of developing a personality disorder. These include stress or trauma in childhood and a family history of personality disorders.

Treatment

Group therapy or counseling session sitting in a circle.
Support groups can help with managing cluster A personality disorders.

There is a need for more research into effective treatments for personality disorders. However, there are treatments and management techniques that can be beneficial.

These include:

Psychodynamic therapy can teach a person to understand their feelings and how they originated. This understanding can often make it easier for them to manage stressful situations and relate to other people.

CBT can help a person address specific thoughts and behaviors.

Support groups are a way of meeting and talking with other people who are experiencing similar mental health issues. Attending group meetings can reduce a person’s social isolation and help them feel understood.

Personality disorders often exist alongside other mental health conditions, but they can also occur on their own. Therapy and medication can be effective ways of treating anxiety or depression. Treatment for these conditions may reduce the effect of a personality disorder on a person’s life.

People with a personality disorder often face prejudice or negative attitudes from other people. Openness about the condition can help if a person is comfortable sharing their diagnosis with others. Greater understanding can lead to more patience and tolerance of the challenges that a person faces.

Outlook

More research could lead to a better understanding of personality disorders, which may result in improved treatment and support for people experiencing them.

Cluster A personality disorders can present significant barriers to living a normal life. Seeking information, support, and treatment can help a person minimize the effect that a personality disorder has on their life.

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