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Types of Personality Disorders

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Types of Personality Disorders

Have you ever imagined what it would be like to be diagnosed with a personality disorder? How would you tell your family and friends? Where would you get treatment? Would you still be able to have a meaningful, fulfilling life? Every person diagnosed with a personality disorder is a person just like you or me! Living with a personality disorder comes with uniquely difficult challenges.

  • What are the different types of personality disorders?
  • What are the three clusters of personality disorders?
  • What are the similarities between the personality disorders in each cluster?
  • What are the symptoms of the personality disorders in each cluster?
  • What are some examples of personality disorders?

Types of Personality Disorders and Their Symptoms

There are many kinds of mental health disorders. Personality disorders are specifically those disorders that impact the core of a person and how they relate to others and the world. The symptoms of personality disorders are severe and long-term.

This also means that diagnosis is difficult. Clinicians are looking for long-term patterns of behaving, thinking, and feeling. It can be hard to tell if someone is experiencing symptoms due to something like bipolar disorder or a substance use disorder, or if their symptoms are severe enough and long-term enough to warrant a personality disorder diagnosis.

It's important to remember that it’s never okay to label a person by their diagnosis. Those with a personality disorder can sometimes act in strange, confusing ways, and it might be tempting to label them as crazy or insane. These are people just like you and me!

Living with a personality disorder is difficult and finding specialized treatment can be nearly impossible. Those with a personality disorder may need someone who specializes in their specific disorder to treat them. It’s a lot like having a rare medical diagnosis. Not just any mental health professional will be able to provide experienced help!

Three Clusters of Personality Disorders

There are 10 personality disorders grouped into 3 categories. Cluster A includes 3 personality disorders with symptoms that evidence weird or eccentric behaviors or thinking patterns. Cluster B includes 4 personality disorders that evidence extremely emotional or unpredictable behaviors, thoughts, and feelings. Cluster C includes 3 personality disorders that evidence extremely fearful, timid, or anxious characteristics.

Personality disorders are controversial. Clinicians have different opinions on how to understand, diagnose, and treat these disorders, and the symptom criteria are based on cultural standards of what is “normal” and "abnormal."

Making things even more complicated, a high percentage of those diagnosed with a personality disorder meet many or all of the criteria of another personality disorder as well. This is known as high comorbidity.

Types of Personality Disorders, chart of the differences between the personality disorder clusters, StudySmarterClusters of Personality DisordersStudySmarter Original

Cluster A Personality Disorders

Those with a Cluster A personality disorder may behave very oddly or have eccentric thoughts and feelings. Cluster A personality disorders are Paranoid Personality Disorder, Schizoid Personality Disorder, and Schizotypal Personality Disorder.

Paranoid Personality Disorder

The name is pretty self-explanatory for Paranoid Personality Disorder (PnPD), but those with this disorder truly believe that there’s good reason to be paranoid. They live with extreme fear, distrust, and suspicion of others and institutions. They believe that others are out to get them, and they constantly feel unsafe and insecure. People with PnPD may live under the radar since their distrust of others often leads them to isolate themselves. They are likely to see threats or danger where others do not.

Tim was diagnosed with PnPD six years ago after a family member forced him to go get evaluated. He is still mad about that and refuses to speak to that family member. Tim lives alone, works remotely, and rarely leaves his home. He was married many years ago, but he broke up with his spouse after several years of accusing his spouse of sleeping with someone else—even though it wasn’t true. Tim is convinced that the world is an extremely evil place full of people who want to attack, betray, or exploit him.

Schizoid Personality Disorder

Despite the similarity in name, Schizoid Personality Disorder (SPD) is not related to Schizophrenia. An alternate name for this disorder could be “loner disorder,” since those with SPD tend to avoid relationships at all costs. They don’t want to be close to others, even if they’re family members. They live life alone, experience very little pleasure, have little interest in sex, and overall appear disinterested in other people.

The saying “no man is an island” by the poet John Donne wouldn’t apply here; those with SPD seek to live life completely separated from others and self-existent. If they are forced to be around others, they don’t enjoy it. Plus, they tend to show little to no emotion, which makes it hard for others to interact with them.

Lina is 65 and lives alone in a rural area. She has no friends. The only person in her life is her sister, who she only sees once a year. Lina isn’t sad about this, though; actually, she wishes her sister wouldn’t come over at all. There isn’t much that Lina likes to do except play one specific computer game. The rest of her life is just about surviving on her own. When she goes to the grocery store, she never smiles or says hello to anyone. She seems to exist entirely alone in a world of her own.

Schizotypal Personality Disorder

Again, despite the similarity in name, Schizotypal Personality Disorder (SzPD) is different from Schizophrenia, but there are some similarities. Individuals with SzPD would probably appear the most unusual or eccentric to the outside observer than those with the other two Cluster A disorders.

Those with SzPD have very unusual thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. They tend to believe in things that others do not, like clairvoyance or telepathy. They experience weird body sensations and speak in odd ways. They can be suspicious of others or demonstrate a great deal of anxiety in social settings, even if they know all the people around them. They have few close relationships because they are so uncomfortable in the presence of others.

Betty is 54 and lives in a city suburb. Her neighbors call her “crazy Betty” because of the way Betty acts, looks, and speaks. Whenever Betty goes out for a walk, she seems very anxious: always checking behind her and looking around corners. If someone tries to talk to her, she either moves away without saying anything or says something vague and weird. Betty visits a mystic and a palm reader every week. She also keeps a lot of odd religious paraphernalia around her house and yard. She dresses in strange ways; sometimes she wears a jacket and hat when it’s really hot out, or she wears dirty, baggy clothes.

Cluster B Personality Disorders

The personality disorders in this group are ones you might be more familiar with or have heard of before. Cluster B personality disorders are Antisocial Personality Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder, Histrionic Personality Disorder, and Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Individuals with these disorders can seem extremely emotional and unpredictable.

Antisocial Personality Disorder

Antisocial Personality Disorder (APD) is typically associated with criminal acts and famous serial killers. Those with APD really don’t seem to care about anyone except themselves. They don’t like to follow rules, whether they’re legal or institutional. They don’t feel remorseful or guilty for things that would normally make you feel that way. They may lie, cheat, steal, exploit, assault, and abuse. They are also impulsive, which makes their behaviors unpredictable. They don’t take life responsibilities seriously and constantly hurt others and let them down. APD is the only personality disorder that can only be diagnosed if someone is over 18. Children and teens cannot be diagnosed with APD.

Saul is 27 and lives alone. He works at an IT company but is frequently absent for unknown reasons. His IT coworkers avoid speaking to him or interacting with him for fear that Saul will blow up at them in rage. Saul has been to prison twice: once for fraud, and once for sexual assault. He has also been indicted on several other crimes. There are a few people in Saul’s life that consider themselves his friends, but no one stays in Saul’s life for very long. Inevitably, Saul ends up deceiving or exploiting his “friends.” Saul suffered extreme abuse as a child, and he frequently bullied others as a child and teen. Even now, Saul can’t seem to navigate any relationship without extremely angry, aggressive actions and behaviors.

There are two famous examples of individuals with APD that you may be familiar with: Ted Bundy and Jeffrey Dahmer. Both were US serial killers, and both are now deceased. Bundy received the death penalty for his crimes, and Dahmer was murdered. These two individuals are extreme examples of APD. Not everyone diagnosed with APD will go on to become a serial killer or even commit serious crimes! Bundy was actually married for over 5 years and was able to live a seemingly “normal” life to those who knew him.

Borderline Personality Disorder

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)—not to be confused with Bipolar Disorder—is frequently diagnosed in females, but males can have this disorder as well. Those with BPD are emotionally unpredictable and unstable. They experience emotions much more deeply and intensely than others.

They struggle a great deal in close relationships, but they very much want to be in close relationships. If they sense that someone may abandon them (even if it’s just imaginary), they will go to extreme lengths to keep that person in their life.

The core struggle of someone with BPD is self-identity. Those with BPD are unsure who they are if they are worthy of love if they can thrive in life, and if they can trust themselves. Suicidal thoughts and behaviors are common for those with BPD, and self-harm is as well. Intensity is a key feature of BPD: intense emotions, intense relationships, and other intense symptoms.

Emmaline is 29 and lives with her fiancé. Her fiancé is incredibly loving and affectionate, but Emmaline never feels completely safe in the relationship. Her fiancé is often confused and bewildered by Emmaline’s insecurity in their relationship. Emmaline grew up in an unstable home and may have suffered abuse as a teen. It’s hard to know if you can trust anything that Emmaline tells you, though, since she is frequently overdramatic and overreactive. Everything that she feels is so intense that she has a hard time not reacting impulsively or aggressively to others. Emmaline also has a history of hospitalization for suicidal behaviors and self-harm.

There are several famous people with BPD, and two historical figures that may have had this disorder are Marilyn Monroe (the American actress) and Vincent van Gogh (the famous Dutch painter). Individuals with BPD face an extreme amount of stigma. It is also hard for them to find clinicians who specialize in treating their disorder.

Histrionic Personality Disorder

It might be difficult for you to understand the differences between BPD and Histrionic Personality Disorder (HPD) because both are characterized by extreme emotional highs and lows. For individuals with HPD, all of life is like a drama production. They want all of the attention in a room to be focused on them. They may act inappropriately in order to get that attention!

Their emotions are all over the place, and others may characterize them as extremely shallow or superficial. Their speech, dress, and characteristic behaviors are all designed to capture the attention of others. They are also insecure and can be easily influenced by others. Like BPD, HPD is more commonly diagnosed in females, but males can also have this disorder.

Lillie is 32 and works for a fashion company. She dresses extravagantly and spends around 2 hours doing her hair and make-up every day. When she enters a room, you know it! Her goal is for every head to turn towards her. Despite this desire for attention, she is insecure in her identity and will go along with what others want her to do. She has been sexually assaulted and abused several times throughout her life. She gains lots of attention from others, but it’s all very shallow. She has no real close relationships because she is constantly focused on impressing others rather than actually getting to know them.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder

You’ve probably heard the term “narcissistic” before since it’s frequently used to describe selfish behaviors these days. Actually, narcissism, and Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) in particular, isn’t what a lot of people think. Individuals with NPD believe themselves to be superior to others. It’s not an act…they genuinely believe it’s true! They fantasize about how to live out their greatness.

They view themselves as being special and worthy of admiration. They feel entitled to admiration and obedience from others. They exploit others while being envious of others. They aren’t empathetic towards others. They may demonstrate caring behaviors in order to gain someone’s affection and admiration, but it’s all with an end goal in mind. Individuals with NPD are full of unrealistic self-esteem and self-worth.

Ian is a 34-year-old banker who aspires to be a mega-bank CEO one day. In fact, that day may not be that far in his future, he thinks. Ian is a sharp-dresser who seeks after all the best things in life: expensive cars, expensive parties, and expensive hobbies. Ian has many “friends” who like to attend his big parties and ride in his car, but Ian can’t think of anyone he knows who genuinely impresses him. From Ian’s point of view, other people are ordinary and unimportant. Sometimes his “friends” are astonished by Ian’s callousness towards others. Despite believing himself to be someone great, deep down Ian struggles with extreme self-doubt and a sense of emptiness. He doesn’t focus on these things though; there’s just too much to accomplish.

There’s a Netflix Original TV show called “Inventing Anna” that is a great example of someone who likely has NPD. The main character, Anna, demonstrates all of the symptoms of NPD. Another popular fiction/comic book example of NPD is Marvel’s Iron Man/Tony Stark. This character likely wouldn’t meet the full criteria for an NPD diagnosis, though.

Cluster C Personality Disorders

Cluster C personality disorders carry the common characteristic of extremely fearful, timid, or anxious symptoms. The Cluster C personality disorders are Avoidant Personality Disorder, Dependent Personality Disorder, and Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder.

Avoidant Personality Disorder

What’s so bad about avoiding other people every once in a while? Well, if that avoidance becomes so severe that it takes over every aspect of life, a person may meet the criteria for Avoidant Personality Disorder (APD). Those with APD avoid others due to feelings of deep inadequacy, fear of being judged or criticized, extremely fragile self-esteem, and very poor self-worth.

Those with APD genuinely desire close relationships, but their extremely poor self-image and anxiety stand in their way. Any kind of critique, evaluation, disapproval, or rejection by others is too much for someone with APD to handle. Their self-esteem is already so fragile that it can’t withstand any kind of real or perceived negativity. So, a person with APD stays away or avoids others to protect themselves; at the same time, they’re protecting themselves from ever being close to and loved by others.

Adam is 36 and painfully shy. He doesn’t attend many social functions. When he does, he doesn’t stay long and barely says a word. He only has two friends: one he has known since childhood, and the other is extremely positive and good-natured. Adam does want to attend social events and build relationships, but he’s so afraid. If anyone said anything remotely critical or judgmental toward him, he wouldn’t know how to handle it. He already thinks so poorly of himself and doesn’t really even know if he deserves to have any friends. He just feels so inadequate all of the time.

Note: APD is different from Social Anxiety Disorder. The symptoms profiles are different, and personality disorders always involve more extreme symptoms. Someone who struggles with social anxiety may resonate with many of the APD criteria, but the two disorders are not the same. The treatments and treatment outcomes for these two disorders are also different.

Dependent Personality Disorder

Have you ever felt like you couldn’t do something without the help of someone else? It’s not a great feeling. Occasionally, we need the help of others to take of ourselves. Someone with Dependent Personality Disorder (DPD), however, appears to need the help of someone else to do anything.

Those with DPD cling to those who take care of them and watch over them. They are extremely afraid of being separated from their caretakers and being left on their own. They need advice and assurance from others before making even the smallest of decisions, like where to go or what to do that day. It’s not because they can’t make their own decisions; it’s because they don’t feel confident enough to do so. They’re not even sure if they can.

At the same time, someone with DPD will cater to the needs of their caretaker to the extreme, in order to keep that person in their life. Those with DPD generally don’t like to be alone. They want to be with the person who looks after them. Even though they have more support than most people, they’re constantly afraid that they’ll be left alone to fend for themselves.

Mickey is 34 and still lives with his mother. He has never left home for longer than a few weeks at a time. Mickey’s father died when Mickey was very young, and it’s just been Mickey and his mom ever since. Mickey never does anything without consulting his mom first. His mom likes that her son feels like he can come to her about anything, but she also feels drained having to reassure him constantly. She wonders sometimes what Mickey would do if something happened to her and he was on his own. She mentioned this to Mickey once, and he quickly shut down the conversation. He said that would never happen. Deep down, he’s constantly afraid that something will happen to his mom and that he’ll be left all alone.

Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder

Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD) is much different from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. With OCPD, the focus is on overly perfectionistic and controlling personality traits rather than specific obsessions and compulsions. It is possible to be diagnosed with both disorders, though. You may know someone with OCPD without realizing it!

These individuals are absorbed in order, rules, lists, tasks, and schedules. They want everything to be perfect or just so. They are dutiful to the extreme, and they don’t hand over control easily or at all. They can be extreme penny-pinchers, inflexible about religious or political matters, and excessive about their work tasks and other responsibilities. Nothing is ever good enough for someone with OCPD…including self. With all this focus on being perfect, those with OCPD don’t always use their time well, can get annoyed very easily, and be incredibly dismissive of others.

Charles is 53 and works in a finance office. He is meticulous in his work tasks and extremely attentive to details—often to the frustration of his coworkers. A task that would take a coworker around 30 minutes might take Charles two hours. Charles is married with two children, but he works long hours and is rarely home. When he is home, he gets annoyed with his kids almost immediately and retreats to his home office or the garage. Charles considers himself to be extremely religious, never missing a religious service or event. He views morality as strictly black and white. Actions are either right or wrong. There are no gray areas. He is often short with his wife, and they hardly talk anymore. He is very controlling of their finances even though they have more than enough to meet their needs and live comfortably.

Types of Personality Disorders - Key takeaways

  • Personality disorders are disorders that impact the core of a person and how they relate to others and the world.
  • There are 10 personality disorders grouped into 3 categories.
  • Cluster A includes 3 personality disorders with symptoms that evidence weird or eccentric behaviors or thinking patterns.
    • Cluster A personality disorders are Paranoid Personality Disorder, Schizoid Personality Disorder, and Schizotypal Personality Disorder.
  • Cluster B includes 4 personality disorders that evidence extremely emotional or unpredictable behaviors, thoughts, and feelings.
    • Cluster B personality disorders are Antisocial Personality Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder, Histrionic Personality Disorder, and Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
  • Cluster C includes 3 personality disorders that evidence extremely fearful, timid, or anxious characteristics.
    • The Cluster C personality disorders are Avoidant Personality Disorder, Dependent Personality Disorder, and Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder.

Frequently Asked Questions about Types of Personality Disorders

There are 10 personality disorders organized into 3 clusters.

The clusters are grouped based on shared characteristics between the disorders in that group.

There are no subtypes of antisocial personality disorder.

There are no subtypes of narcissistic personality disorder.

No. Multiple Personality Disorder has been renamed Dissociative Identity Disorder, and it is not a type of schizophrenic disorder.

Final Types of Personality Disorders Quiz

Question

What are personality disorders?

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Answer

Personality disorders are specifically those disorders that impact the core of a person and how they relate to others and the world.

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True or False: personality disorders can occur over a short period of time.

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Answer

False: personality disorders are severe and long-term.

Show question

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True or False: it is fairly easy for a clinician to diagnose someone with a personality disorder.

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False: diagnosis is difficult. Clinicians are looking for long-term patterns of behaving, thinking, and feeling that aren't due to any other possible causes.

Show question

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True or False: It is pretty easy for someone with a personality disorder to find treatment.

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Answer

False: Living with a personality disorder is difficult and finding effective treatment can be nearly impossible

Show question

Question

What is the common characteristic of Cluster A personality disorders?

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weird or eccentric behaviors or thinking patterns

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What is the common characteristic of Cluster B personality disorders?

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Extreme emotionality or unpredictability

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What is the common characteristic of Cluster C personality disorders?

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Extremely fearful, timid, or anxious characteristics

Show question

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True or False: Personality disorders are controversial.

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True: Clinicians have different opinions on how to understand, diagnose, and treat these disorders.

Show question

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What are the Cluster A personality disorders?

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Paranoid Personality Disorder, Schizoid Personality Disorder, and Schizotypal Personality Disorder.

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What are the Cluster B personality disorders? 

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Antisocial Personality Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder, Histrionic Personality Disorder, and Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

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What are the Cluster C personality disorders?

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Avoidant Personality Disorder, Dependent Personality Disorder, and Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder.

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True or False: Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder is nearly identical to Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.

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False: Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder is much different than Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.

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What is a symptom of Narcissistic Personality Disorder?

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Possible answers: superiority, fantasies of greatness, entitlement, exploitation of others, lack of empathy.

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What is a symptom of Borderline Personality Disorder?

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Possible answers: deeply intense emotions, intimate relationship difficulties, extreme fear of abandonment, struggles with self-identity, suicidal thoughts/behaviors.

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What is a symptom of Antisocial Personality Disorder?

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Possible answers: lack of empathy or concern for others, rejection of rules or standards of others, lack of remorse or guilt, illegal or hurtful actions, impulsivity, neglect of responsibilities.

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True or False: Antisocial Personality Disorder can be diagnosed in those as young as 12.

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False: Antisocial Personality Disorder can only be diagnosed in those that are 18 or older.

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Someone with a personality disorder is at higher risk of developing another personality disorder. This is known as...

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high comorbidity

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How many personality disorders are there (in total)? 

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10 

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Fill in the blank: Cluster ___ includes 3 personality disorders with symptoms that evidence weird or eccentric behaviors or thinking patterns.  

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Answer

A

Show question

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Fill in the blanks: Cluster ___ includes 4 personality disorders that evidence extremely emotional or unpredictable behaviors, thoughts, and feelings. 

Show answer

Answer

B

Show question

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Fill in the blank: Cluster ___ includes 3 personality disorders that evidence extremely fearful, timid, or anxious characteristics. 

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Answer

C

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Select the three personality disorders in Cluster A.

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Answer

Paranoid Personality Disorder

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Select the four personality disorders in Cluster B. 

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Antisocial Personality Disorder 

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Select the three personality disorders in Cluster C. 

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Avoidant Personality Disorder

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Question

True or False: People with PnPD may live under the radar since their distrust of others often leads them to isolate themselves. 

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True 

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Question

Which of the following disorders is also referred to as "Loner Disorder"? 

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Schizoid Personality Disorder  

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True or False: Those with DPD cling to those who take care of them and watch over them. 

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True 

Show question

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Fill in the blank: Those with ____ avoid others due to feelings of deep inadequacy, fear of being judged or criticized, extremely fragile self-esteem, and very poor self-worth. 

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Answer

APD - Avoidant Personality Disorder 

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True or False: Individuals with NPD believe themselves to be superior to others. 

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True 

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True or False: APD is the only personality disorder that can only be diagnosed if someone is over 18. 

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Answer

True 

Show question

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True or False: Those with APD genuinely desire close relationships, but their extremely poor self-image and anxiety stand in their way. 

Show answer

Answer

True 

Show question

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True or False: Those with SPD seek to live life completely separated from others and self-existent. 

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Answer

True 

Show question

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