Cluster C Personality Disorders: Avoidant, Dependent, Obsessive

Do you sometimes feel confused and overwhelmed by the sheer intrusiveness of your thoughts? Do you struggle to control your emotions and constantly feel like you are working at the mercy of your mind rather than the other way around? 

If yes, you feel what people with cluster C personality disorders feel on an everyday basis. While being consumed by your thoughts and emotions and feeling anxious and stressed is a one-off experience for you – for people dealing with cluster C personality disorders, it is a part of their daily struggles. These experiences can make one feel extremely isolated and therefore require proper support and medical attention. 

Fearful and anxious behaviors define Cluster C personality disorders. These disorders affect a person’s day-to-day life and hamper their ability to form stable social relationships. 

The Diagnostics and Statistical Manual – fifth edition (DSM-V) names ten personality disorders, out of which three are characterized under cluster C. The three types of cluster C personality disorders are – avoidant, dependent, and obsessive-compulsive personality disorders.

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 A disorders.

 Cluster C Personality Disorders

1. Avoidant Personality Disorder (APD)

Avoiding personality disorder has the ability to hamper people’s lives significantly. It is characterized by intense feelings of inferiority. People with APD feel a constant need to connect and interact with other people but often avoid being in social situations because they fear getting disliked or rejected. 

This means, on one side, you want to really have a successful and happy life and want to connect with people and form meaningful relationships. Yet, on the flip side, you are hypersensitive to negative comments and feedback that you constantly avoid being out there and do whatever is in your power to avoid any form of embarrassment or dejection. This way, avoidant personality disorder makes it extremely hard for people to form meaningful relationships. 

APD affects around eight million people in the US, with a slightly higher probability in females. While the reason behind the occurrence of the condition is unclear, research points toward adverse childhood experiences, genetic history, and life experiences as potential causes.

The common symptoms of APD include the following:

  • avoiding social situations,
  • feeling inferior to others constantly,
  • being extremely sensitive to negative feedback,
  • finding it extremely difficult to connect with others,
  • avoiding people and places, you are familiar with, and 
  • regularly imagining meaningful relationships but not being able to develop them.

Read more: National Child Abuse Prevention Month: Things You Should Know

2. Dependent Personality Disorder (DPD)

People with dependent personality disorder have an intense need to be cared for. It is frequently accompanied by the constant fear and anxiety of letting people down, disappointing them, or being abandoned. While people with DPD are commonly termed clingy and overbearing, they actually feel persistent self-doubt and are unsure about what direction to move forward in.

A history of abusive and traumatic childhood experiences and genetic factors might contribute to the development of dependent personality disorders.

The common symptoms of DPD include the following:

  • having difficulty in making decisions without outside help,
  • always agreeing with others,
  • feeling helpless and uncomfortable when alone,
  • having separation anxiety,
  • having the constant need to be reassured,
  • lacking the confidence to start something alone, and
  • having the tendency to let others take charge of important life decisions.

3. Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD)

Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder is a condition defined by having intrusive, compulsive, and distressing thoughts to arrange and organize things according to a specific order. OCPD is characterized by a constant need for perfection in managing everyday tasks.

If you have OCPD, your obsessive need for perfectionism can delay your work and have it completed at the last moment. You will also notice that you would avoid taking rest because you feel the burden of being constantly productive.

OCPD is different from obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). OCD can have multiple themes, while OCPD generally affects the tasks you manage in your regular life. With OCD, you realize that your behaviors and habits are intrusive, while with OCPD, you more or less adjust to your way of functioning. 

The common symptoms of OCPD include the following:

  • being excessively preoccupied with rules, regulations, and details,
  • being highly inflexible when it comes to rules or morals,
  • having the tendency to search for perfectionism in everything you do,
  • being highly dedicated to your work, even at the expense of social relationships,
  • being unable to get rid of your belongingness even if they are not in use, and
  • being unable to delegate tasks to others unless they are completed the way you want them.

Read more: The Invisible Scars of Psychological Abuse In Relationships

Treatment Options

Research by Carlos Roncero and the team shows that people with cluster C personality disorder are at a higher risk of developing substance abuse disorders. This is why it is important to get the right help as soon as possible. 

The treatment options for cluster C personality disorders include the following:

1. Psychotherapy: This is generally the first line of treatment options for cluster C disorders. The aim of personality disorders is generally to help people manage their social situations and cope with emotions in better ways.

2. Medications: While the Food and Drugs Administration has not approved any specific medications to alleviate symptoms related to personality disorders, your doctor might prescribe you antidepressants or mood stabilizers if deemed necessary.

Disclaimer: The above-suggested medications should only be used after proper diagnosis and discussion with professionals. Unregulated use can be life-threatening.


Cluster C personality disorders are mental health conditions classified by anxious, erratic, and fearful behaviors. They can disrupt people’s lives and significantly strangulate personal growth. Making stable social relationships while dealing with cluster C personality disorders is also hard.

This is why timely help and support can go a long way in dealing with them. If you or someone you know is dealing with personality disorders, getting professional help is important. 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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