Many toxic, abusive relationships involve personality disordered people. Often, these people are undiagnosed for any number of reasons, but their spouses, friends, coworkers, and other family members start researching their behaviors and may determine that they may have a personality disorder. In some cases, they’re right, and in other cases, they may be completely off-base and missing important characteristics or symptoms that could point to another issue.
What is a personality disorder?
According to the American Psychiatric Association, a personality disorder is defined as “a way of thinking, feeling and behaving that deviates from the expectations of the culture, causes distress or problems functioning, and lasts over time.”
The spectrum of personality disorders is wide and diverse. However, we have found that people who fall (or who might fall, were they diagnosed) on the Cluster B spectrum of personality disorders can be among the most toxic when it comes to personal relationships.
Personality disorders aren’t short-term issues. They’re not diagnosed unless the doctor is able to see a pattern of ongoing, specific, and recurrent behaviors and symptoms. A personality disorder will affect every area of the person’s life, and cannot be caused by substance abuse or any medical condition, though these issues could certainly mimic personality disorders. Personality disorders in general cause the affected person to struggle in society and in many cases to be dysfunctional in certain parts of their lives (such as in their personal relationships and jobs, for example).
The DSM acknowledges 10 distinct personality disorders (Paranoid, Schizoid, Schizotypal, Antisocial, Borderline, Histrionic, Narcissistic, Avoidant, Dependent, Obsessive-compulsive) and one catchall category, Personality Disorders NOS (Not Otherwise Specified).
What are personality disorder ‘clusters?’
Personality disorder clusters are made up of personality disorders that have certain notable similarities. The Clusters are not absolute, but they offer a convenient way to categorize these disorders.
- Cluster A (Odd or Eccentric Cluster) includes the Paranoid, Schizoid, and Schizotypal Personality Disorders.
- Cluster B (Dramatic, Emotional, or Erratic Cluster) is comprised of the Antisocial, Borderline, Histrionic, and Narcissistic Personality Disorders.
- Cluster C (Anxious or Fearful Cluster) encompasses the Avoidant, Dependent, and Obsessive-compulsive Personality Disorders.
What are Cluster B personality disorders?
Cluster B personality disorders are a spectrum or a group of personality disorders that manifest in dramatic, overly emotional, or unpredictable thinking and behavior. The Cluster B spectrum includes the following personality disorders.
Antisocial Personality Disorder (ASPD)
Antisocial Personality Disorder is the diagnosis that is most commonly associated with psychopathy. It’s considered a “mental health disorder” that is characterized by a blatant disregard for other people. A psychopath ignores or actively violates other people’s rights, choices, wishes, preferences, and emotions without regard for their wellbeing, their feelings, or what they think and feel about the psychopath.
Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)
Borderline Personality Disorder is a personality disorder that manifests in a number of symptoms, including an ongoing pattern of mood swings, a distorted self-image, and various behavior issues. While this disorder is sometimes mistaken for narcissistic personality disorder, the two are different in that people with BPD have empathy, and those with NPD do not. Survivors of narcissistic abuse are sometimes misdiagnosed with BPD, and clearly, its symptoms can result in impulsive actions and major problems in relationships.
Borderline Personality Disorder is marked by instability. The roller-coaster of emotions someone with BPD suffers through is emotional lability according to Healthline.
While most people diagnosed with BPD are female, men can also be affected. When narcissistic abuse is involved, in some cases, someone who is diagnosed with BPD might actually be diagnosed with C-PTSD (complex post-traumatic stress disorder). if their doctors understood how the trauma and abuse had affected their lives and psychology.
Someone with BPD may have a hard time maintaining stable relationships. Additionally, they might be a little dramatic and as a result of the lack of relationship stability, they will leave in their wake a number of lovers, spouses, and friends. These relationships will often be volatile and in some cases even violent. Someone with BPD may struggle with their self-image as it can fluctuate frequently. Someone with BPD may alternatively doubt and overestimate their own self-worth. Sometimes, you’ll notice someone with BPD is might act totally “normal,” while other times, the same person might be completely out of the ordinary, unpredictable and incredibly inappropriate. Their ability to control their impulses can also be impaired when they’re feeling overwhelmed or frustrated.
Histrionic Personality Disorder (HPD)
Histrionic personality disorder is a personality disorder characterized by a pattern of excessive attention-seeking behaviors, usually beginning in early childhood. In some cases, someone diagnosed with HPD may be a survivor of sex abuse in childhood, but not always. HPD involves repeated episodes of inappropriate social behaviors, most commonly marked by seduction along with an excessive need for approval from literally almost everyone with whom they come in contact.
Histrionic Personality Disorder also revolves around attention-seeking but is usually confined to sexual conquests and displays of the histrionic’s capacity to irresistibly seduce others. This can cause a lot of problems in their friendships and other relationships. Worth noting: There is a somewhat offensive history behind the name of this particular diagnosis.
Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD)
Narcissistic Personality Disorder is a personality disorder that manifests in an inflated sense of self-importance, a deep need for excessive attention and admiration, troubled relationships, and a lack of empathy for others, among a whole host of other symptoms. Someone with NPD usually displays a sense of over-the-top grandiosity. They have fantasies of being smarter, better, and more powerful than others around them. They may believe or at least attempt to portray that they’re perfect. Narcissists lack emotional and compassionate empathy, but they have the ability to use cognitive empathy, which can make them dangerous.
A narcissist will actively exploit the people around them. They compulsively and actively seek narcissistic supply (attention, admiration, adulation, being feared, etc.). Narcissists require this “supply” in order to uphold their false selves. The false self is a sort of “mask” the narcissist wears that is their made-up image of who they are, designed to make people like and admire them, as well as to get people to go along with their wishes and to comply with their rigid, self-imposed rules.
Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support Resources
- The QueenBeeing SPANily, Official – We consider this to be the best narcissistic abuse recovery support group on the web. Offers several subgroups and features a vigilant, compassionate admin team full of trained coaches and survivors, supporting more than 12k members. SPAN is an acronym created by Angie Atkinson that stands for Support for People Affected by Narcissistic abuse in toxic relationships.
- Other Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support Groups – We also have separate groups for each stage in your narcissistic abuse recovery, as well as some for those who have moved past recovery and are evolving into the next stage of their own life. Survivors have unique and individual needs, even when they’ve moved on – so we’re still here for you.
- One-on-One Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Coaching – If you prefer to get more personalized support in your recovery, you might like to schedule a session with one of our coaches to plan and execute your own narcissistic abuse recovery plan.
- Find a Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Therapist – If you’re looking for a therapist for narcissistic abuse recovery, either because you cannot afford coaching and want to use your health insurance or because you have additional issues you need to address that do not fall within the realm of coaching, you will want to find the right therapist for you – and as far as we’re concerned, that therapist must understand what you’ve been through. This page offers assistance to help you do exactly that.
- Where Are You in Recovery? You might not be sure exactly where you fit in and what level of recovery you’ve achieved. If that’s the case, you’ll want to check out this self-assessment to help you determine exactly where you fall in the stages of recovery from narcissistic abuse. Once you finish and submit the assessment, you will be given resources for your own situation, along with recommendations of which groups to join.
- Which Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Program is Right for You? If you aren’t sure which program you want to utilize to facilitate your recovery from narcissistic abuse, this self-assessment will help you decide.
Helpful Videos for Narcissistic Abuse Survivors
- When You See the Narcissist After No Contact
- How to Catch a Narcissist in a Lie Every Time (No-Fail Method!)
- 20 Things Narcissists Hate & Don’t Want You to Know They Worry About
- Narcissists Use False Empathy to Fool You (When Narcissists Use False Empathy)
- Can A Narcissist Change For The Better?
- 7 Comments That Instantly Trigger a Narcissist’s Anger
- Why Narcissists Have To Hurt You
- Narcissist’s False Self (How does the narcissist’s false self develop?)
- Narcissists in Old Age (What No One Tells You About Aging Narcissists)