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What are Cluster C Personality Disorders?

Personality disorders are a group of mental illnesses that are a product of long-term thoughts and behaviors and are typically considered to be unhealthy and a hindrance to a person’s social relationships. Personality disorders are grouped into three distinct clusters, each sharing their own unique traits. Cluster C disorders are considered to be the anxious, fearful cluster. The most common trait shared among these disorders is an overwhelming level of anxiety.

Avoidant Personality Disorder

Avoidant Personality Disorder is marked by low self-esteem and hypersensitivity to the concept of being rejected or dismissed by others. Individuals diagnosed with this personality disorder often over-analyze the social cues and movements of others. While one person may view a friend making a last-minute change of plans as a normal occasion that happens from time to time, someone with Avoidant Personality Disorder might believe that their friend was dismissing her and does not value her friendship.

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These individuals tend to have a very small social circle comprised primarily of people with whom they are certain will not reject them. They will often be unwilling to become socially involved with someone, unless they are certain that they will be liked. These individuals also tend to have low self-esteem, and believe themselves to be unappealing and inferior to others. These individuals are also less likely to take risks, such applying for a new job, out of fear that they will not be good enough to be selected.

Dependent Personality Disorder

Individuals diagnosed with Dependent Personality Disorder may be fearful over the feelings of separation, loss, or rejection of others. These individuals will go to extreme lengths to stay in a relationship, even an abusive, neglectful, or exploitative one. Extra concern should be placed when a person with Dependent Personality Disorder is in a relationship with someone diagnosed with one of the Cluster B disorders, particularly the ones with exploitative tenancies such as Narcissistic or Borderline disorders. These individuals often feel as if they cannot be trusted to make decisions on their own, and can become overly focused on the fear of criticism, disapproval, or abandonment.

Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder

Not to be confused with the similarly named anxiety disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder tends not to be as debilitating as the former, and is characterized by a preoccupation with rules and order. Individuals diagnosed with Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder display a preoccupation with perfectionism and orderliness at the expense of flexibility and efficiency. These individuals may find it difficult to complete tasks, due to their own self-implemented standards, but are unable to delegate work to others, out of fear that their standards will not be met. Their devotion to work is seen as abnormal, even when accounting for varying cultural norms. These individuals tend to be seen as stubborn, and rigid across multiple social situations.

Treatment and Considerations

The cause of these disorders is mostly unknown, though it is believed to be a combination of both biological and environmental factors. Of particular concern with every personality disorder, is the influence of one’s culture. You would not want to confuse a personality disorder with someone’s religious belief that they can commune with spirits or nature, if their culture supports that religious norm for example. Another consideration is that many of these disorders share symptoms with other disorders, meaning that one must be certain to follow any rule-out criteria offered by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). In many situations it is common for patients with personality disorders to be prescribed medicine for symptoms such as depression and anxiety, while working closely with an experienced therapist during long-term therapy to address concerns such as fear of abandonment and self-esteem.