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The Characteristics of Cluster A Personality Disorders

written by: Nicholas Kuvaas • edited by: Paul Arnold • updated: 8/25/2011

Cluster A personality disorders include paranoid, schizoid, and schizotypal personality disorders. While each shares the same underlying characteristics of Cluster A personality disorders, the symptoms of each are distinct. This article discusses these characteristics and symptoms.

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    What are Cluster A personality disorders?

    There are many types of personality disorder. As a way to easily classify them, they are divided into three distinct clusters. These clusters are simply labeled as A, B, and C. Cluster A personality disorders include paranoid, schizoid, and schizotypal personality disorders which are characterized by the prevailing symptoms of social awkwardness and social withdrawal, and this cluster is also known as the Odd, Eccentric Cluster1.

    Cluster A personality disorders are slightly more common among men. Often, they are comorbid with major depression and may precede episodes of full blown schizophrenia or delusional disorder2. Luckily, these personality disorders are relatively rare with schizotypal personality disorder affecting 3% of the population and paranoid personality disorder affecting up to 2.5% of the population.

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    Cluster A Personality Disorders

    Paranoid personality disorder is characterized by a consistent pathological mistrust of others. This mistrust extends to family, friends and significant others. Symptoms common among sufferers are the assumptions that others wish to harm them, take advantage of them, or humiliate them somehow. In response to these beliefs, people with this disorder constantly try to protect themselves and keep their distance from others. Other symptoms include feeling threatened by non-threatening behavior or simple harmless remarks. This belief further leads to pre-emptive attacks against the person who makes them feel threatened. Those who suffer from Cluster A personality disorder are also likely to hold grudges for long periods of time and display abnormal jealousy which leads to difficulty maintaining relationships.

    Schizoid personality disorder is relatively rare, and its symptoms are related directly to social withdrawal. People who have this disorder tend to intentionally isolate themselves from others and don't seek out close relationships. Likely, they would not enjoy a close relationship but prefer to be alone. Activities would probably be done alone, but they seldom enjoy these activities or any aspects of their everyday lives. Also due to their social withdrawal, praise or criticism from others probably would not affect them, and, emotionally, people with this Cluster A personality disorder would appear to be cold or aloof.

    The final disorder listed under Cluster A personality disorders is schizotypal. People with this disorder tend to be socially reserved, isolated, and distant. Those who suffer from this disorder perceive things differently from others. They may see flashes of light which no one else can see, or they may perceive an object or shape out of the corner of their eye, then realize that nothing is there. Also, odd beliefs are a common symptom of this disorder. These beliefs can include anything supernatural or magical like the belief that thoughts are being stolen out of their head, or they have the ability to read minds. This disorder may share some common genes with another mental illness because people with a family history of schizophrenia are more likley to develop this disorder.

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