Let’s see what the concept of a personality cluster is and how it has developed.
We all have different tastes, different opinions, different ways of doing things, and we even see the world in a distinctive and personal way. We are unique people, who have been shaped by both their biology and their life experiences. But we do not stop being members of the same species.
In this sense, it is possible to establish different types of personality with a certain resemblance to each other, in which some basic elements are shared. And from the field of psychology and psychiatry, these types of personalities have been organized into what have come to be called personality clusters.
What does this concept refer to? What is a personality cluster? Let’s see it throughout this article.
What is personality?
Before considering what is referred to by the personality cluster concept, it may be useful to briefly define the most important component of it: personality.
We call personality the pattern or set of behaviors, cognitions, emotions, perspectives and ways of seeing and interpreting reality and of relating to the environment and ourselves that are habitual to us and that we tend to maintain relatively stable over time and through situations throughout life.
Personality is defined throughout our growth and in the course of our life cycle, being configured partly based on our genes and based on our experiences and learning. It is what defines our way of being and acting, and it is generally adaptive to effectively relate to the environment.
However, sometimes a series of circumstances cause that for some reason we acquire characteristics or ways of thinking or doing that, although they allow us to survive and adapt to the environment, they can cause us great difficulties in areas such as interpersonal relationships, work or the ability to enjoy life, and can generate some dysfunction, discomfort and suffering in us or in our environment.
This is the case of people who suffer from a personality disorder. And it is with respect to this type of disorder that the three main types of personality cluster that are usually used have been elaborated, a concept that we will define below.
What is a personality cluster?
Cluster is understood as an organization or way of classifying different quantitative variables into different groups which include them based on some type of common characteristic or element.
Thus, when we speak of a personality cluster we are referring to a grouping of various personality types that have some type of element that allows them to be grouped together. That is to say, the existence of common factors between different classes or types of personalities is established, which allows us to define to a great extent the whole, so that the different categories are homogenized and encompassed around said quality or aspect.
The three personality clusters
Although technically it would be possible to make personality clusters based on different criteria, when we talk about this concept we are generally referring to three in particular, those in which personality disorders have been classified and cataloged. In this sense, at present, three large personality clusters are contemplated, based on the type of behavior pattern that they regularly manifest.
Cluster A: Rare-eccentric
Cluster A includes the types of personality disorder that have as a common element the performance of acts and the maintenance of ways of thinking and interpreting the world considered as extravagant and very unusual, sometimes resembling the functioning of the population with psychotic elements (although in this case we are talking about personality traits and not a disorder itself).
It is these behaviors and ways that generate dysfunction or discomfort in the subject. Paranoid, schizoid, and schizotypal personality disorders are included within this cluster.
Cluster B: Unstable / Dramatic-emotional
The grouping or organization of personality disorders known as cluster B refers to the set of personality alterations that have as a common feature the presence of a high emotionality, which is highly labile, and that tends to present a dramatic behavior and sometimes theatrical.
The presence of a lack of control over emotions and affections is commonly observed, as well as a certain distrust of others and / or their esteem. Within this group we find antisocial, borderline, histrionic and narcissistic personality disorders.
Cluster C: Fearful-anxious
This third cluster integrates a set of disorders which have in common the presence of a high level of fear or anxiety (or not doing it), which leads them to act in a way that decreases as much as possible. The axis or core of much of their behavior is the avoidance of what is feared. Low tolerance for uncertainty is also common.
Within cluster C we find avoidant, dependent and obsessive-compulsive personality disorders.
A useful concept, but not as closed as it seems
The concept of the personality cluster, as it refers to at least the three types that are commonly used, was first used in 1980 with the DSM-III. This was carried out with the purpose of making a grouping of personality alterations that would allow the disorders to be classified in a simpler way, at the same time that further research on this type of alterations was promoted.
Since then, personality clusters have been used on a regular basis to identify the sphere in which personality alterations move. This does not mean that they are used to diagnose (since the cluster is not a diagnosis in itself nor does it establish it), but it can give an idea of the type of characteristics or implications that a specific problem may have in the day-to-day life of a subject. .
However, although the organization in clusters can be very useful when establishing delimited categories between the different types of personality, the truth is that the performance of different factorial analyzes does not consistently support that these clusters are always so tight and separated from each other: for example, in clinical practice it is not uncommon for the same patient to present characteristics and even disorders belonging to different clusters.
- American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Fifth edition. DSM-V. Masson, Barcelona.
- Buratti Hamlin, M., Casas Losada, A., Conde Amado, M., Fernández Hierro, J., Flóres Menéndez, G., Forti Sampietro, L., Martínez Valente, J. and Veiga Candán, MJ (2015). Personality: Exploration, Diagnosis and Treatment. GALICIAN Forum. STUDY of PERSONALITY. ADAMED.
- Millon, D. (2007). Millon-III Clinical Multiaxial Inventory (MCMI-III). Professional Manual. Madrid, TEA Ediciones SA
- Millon, T. (1997). Disorders of personality: DSM-IV and beyond. New York: Wiley.