Understanding Cluster B Personality Disorders

Have you ever met someone with a pretty inflated and overestimated sense of self? Someone who was relentless in the pursuit of getting attention or admiration? Or perhaps someone who was hostile and had an ingrained tendency to break the rules? 

If yes, you might have encountered someone dealing with cluster B personality disorders. 

The Diagnostics and Statistics Manual – fifth edition (DSM-V) names ten personality disorders, out of which four are characterized under cluster B. The four types of cluster B personality disorders are – antisocial, borderline, histrionic, and narcissistic personality disorders. 

Cluster B personality disorders are clubbed together for two reasons. Firstly, they share certain personality traits, like being hyper-emotional, exhibiting unpredictable behaviors, and having difficulty building and managing relationships. 

Apart from this, cluster B personality disorders are also clubbed together because a single and clean diagnosis is often difficult in such cases. For instance, a person with antisocial personality disorder can show overlapping symptoms with a narcissistic personality disorder. As a result, dealing with cluster B disorders is extremely difficult for the affected individual and those around them. 

On that note, let us dive deeper into each of these disorders and understand how they affect people. We will also discuss the available treatment options for cluster B disorders.

Cluster B Personality Disorders

1. Antisocial Personality Disorder (ASPD)

Antisocial personality disorder manifests in the form of thoughts and actions that defy the moral and legal guidelines set for human behaviors. People with ASPD have a disregard for people’s rights and lack empathy for other people. 

As per the American Psychiatry Association, the disorder affects eight million people in America. 

While a definite cause is unknown, research suggests that childhood trauma, genetic factors, and brain-damaging accidents can lead to the development of ASPD in individuals.

People with ASPD are more likely to indulge in criminal activities. However, just like other mental health conditions, the disorder occurs on a spectrum, and not all people exhibit such behaviors. 

Symptoms of antisocial personality disorder:

  • being constantly angry and agitated,
  • being arrogant,
  • acting impulsively without fearing consequences,
  • displaying violent and aggressive tendencies,
  • having a lack of empathy for others,
  • having unhealthy dependence on substances like alcohol, drugs, etc.

Read more: Antisocial Personality Disorder – Signs, Causes, Treatments

2. Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)

Having borderline personality disorder means having unstable relationships, emotions, and sense of self. This instability results in a deeply ingrained fear of being abandoned. During an episode of borderline personality disorder, the concerned individual reacts impulsively and emotionally while often indulging in risky behaviors. 

As per the National Library of Medicine, BPD affects around 1.6% of the US population. Among these, 75% of BPD patients are women. It is believed that men are equally affected by BPD as well. However, they are often misdiagnosed with post-traumatic stress and allied disorders instead. 

Symptoms of borderline personality disorder:

  • fear of being abandoned,
  • unhealthy relationships,
  • a highly unstable sense of self,
  • rapid and intense mood fluctuations,
  • impulsive and hazardous thoughts and behaviors,
  • constant self-harming tendencies,
  • feelings of emptiness,
  • anger management issues, and
  • paranoid thoughts. 

Read more: Myths Vs. Facts – Borderline Personality Disorder Awareness Month

3. Histrionic Personality Disorder (HPD)

A histrionic personality disorder is another cluster B personality disorder characterized by unstable emotions and highly attention-seeking behaviors. Additionally, people with histrionic personality disorders are emotionally manipulative in nature. As per research published by the American Family Psychician, HPD affects 1-3% of the American population.

While there is no single cause of HPD, genetic and environmental factors are found to play a decisive role. Risk factors include being abused as a child or having a higher sensitivity to certain environmental stimuli like noise or light.

Symptoms of histrionic personality disorder:

  • being very quick to respond with lies,
  • displaying exaggerated signs of weakness or illness,
  • being uncomfortable situations where you are not the center of attention,
  • trying to draw attention to yourself,
  • experiencing sudden mood and opinion shifts,
  • using sexually provocative behaviors as tools, etc.

Read more: Histrionic Personality Disorder – Symptoms, Causes, Treatments

4. Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD)

A narcissistic personality disorder is defined by an exaggerated and inflated sense of self. These individuals have an intense desire for attention and admiration. People with NPD are often disappointed and unhappy if they don’t receive the admiration or special attention they think they deserve. 

According to the National Library of Medicine, NPD affects around 6.2% of the population, with a slightly more pronounced effect in men. Like other cluster B personality disorders, NPD also arises due to genetic factors, adverse childhood experiences, or excessive parental pampering.

Symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder:

  • inflated sense of self,
  • feeling more deserving, powerful, and smarter than others,
  • needing excessive attention and admiration,
  • having a sense of entitlement,
  • being arrogant and snobbish toward others,
  • being willing to take advantage of others for selfish gains, etc.

Read more: 5 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Treatment Options

Research has been highly limited in terms of identifying a possible treatment line for cluster B personality disorders. However, some treatment options have been used by healthcare providers.

These include:

  • medications,
  • psychotherapy,
  • behavioral therapies like cognitive-behavioral therapy and dialectical-behavioral therapy.


Cluster B personality disorders are identified with risky and impulsive behaviors, lack of emotional stability, and difficulty having stable relationships. They cause a great deal of discomfort for people dealing with them and those around them.

Living with personality disorders is hard. However, timely professional care and support can help allow recovery and symptom management. With the advent of online therapy platforms, finding professional help is now easier than ever. To know more about them, click here

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