Understanding the Cluster B Personality Disorders

Borderline personality disorder is one of the Cluster B personality disorders

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Mental health professionals group personality disorders into three clusters, including Cluster B personality disorders, based on shared features and symptoms. Many people with one personality disorder also have signs and symptoms of at least one more.

Personality Disorders

The fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) lists borderline personality disorder (BPD) among the Cluster B personality disorders.

Personality disorders are psychological conditions that appear in adolescence or early adulthood, continue over many years, and cause a great deal of distress. Personality disorders often disrupt a person's ability to enjoy life or find fulfillment in relationships, work, or school.

What Are the Cluster B Personality Disorders?

There are four Cluster B personality disorders:

  1. Antisocial
  2. Borderline
  3. Narcissistic
  4. Histrionic

They are characterized by dramatic, over-emotional, or unpredictable (erratic) thinking or behavior. The Cluster B personality disorders are also the most common of the personality disorders described in DSM-5.

Antisocial Personality Disorder

According to DSM-5, antisocial personality disorder is a “pervasive pattern of disregard for, and violation of, the rights of others that begins in early childhood or early adolescence and continues into adulthood.”

People with antisocial personality disorder have been described as lacking empathy, which is the ability to “put yourself in someone else’s shoes” in order to understand their feelings.

They often act irresponsibly, lie, steal, or repeatedly break the law. Antisocial personality disorder is also linked to impulsive behavior, aggression (such as repeated physical assaults), disregard for one's own or others' safety, irresponsible behavior, and lack of remorse.

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)

BPD is associated with specific problems in interpersonal relationships, self-image, emotions, behaviors, and thinking.

People with BPD tend to have unstable, intense relationships with conflict, many arguments, and frequent break-ups. They fear being abandoned. They often have a negative image of themselves, and they report many "ups and downs" in how they feel about themselves. They may say they feel as if they're on an emotional roller coaster with very quick shifts in mood, such as going from feeling okay to feeling depressed within a few minutes.

People with BPD often engage in risky behaviors, such as going on shopping sprees, drinking excessive amounts of alcohol or abusing drugs, engaging in promiscuous sex, binge eating, or self-harming (for example, cutting themselves or threatening or attempting suicide).

Narcissistic Personality Disorder

An inflated sense of self-importance is the key feature of narcissistic personality disorder. People with narcissistic personality disorder often believe that they're “special,” more important than other people, and entitled to special treatment. They require excessive attention, take advantage of others, lack empathy, and are described by others as arrogant. 

People with narcissistic personality disorder also exaggerate their achievements and fantasize about being powerful, attractive, and successful.

They have no interest in others' feelings and needs, but they do have unreasonable expectations of what others should do for them. Sometimes they envy others, but they often believe that they are envied.

Histrionic Personality Disorder

The central features of histrionic personality disorder are intense, dramatic expressions of emotion that shift rapidly and excessive, attention-seeking behavior.

People with histrionic personality disorder constantly seek out attention and are uncomfortable when others are receiving it. They may often engage in dramatic, seductive, or sexually provocative behavior or use their physical appearance to draw attention to themselves.

Additional features of people with histrionic personality disorder include:

  • Relationships that are not as strong as the person thinks they are
  • Shallow, rapidly shifting emotions
  • Strong, dramatic statements of opinion
  • The tendency to be easily influenced by others


American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders DSM-5. Fifth Edition. American Psychiatric Association: 2013.

MayoClinic.org. Personality disorders. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/personality-disorders/basics/symptoms/con-20030111.

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