What Are Cluster C Personality Disorders?

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Cluster C personality disorders are marked by symptoms of anxiety and fear. Cluster C personality disorders include avoidant personality disorder (AVPD), dependent personality disorder, and obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD).

Personality disorders are mental health conditions characterized by changes in a person’s mood, behavior, and thinking patterns.

Read on to learn about Cluster C personality disorder types, how to identify if you might have one, and how it can be treated.

Overview of Personality Disorder Clusters

According to the National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH), approximately 9% of U.S. adults have been diagnosed with a personality disorder.

What Are the Three Personality Disorder Clusters?

The DSM-5-TR categorizes personality disorders into three clusters:

  • Cluster A: People with Cluster A personality disorders exhibit behaviors others might find odd. They might have unusual levels of paranoia or severe disinterest in people and social relationships. 
  • Cluster B: This set of disorders causes a person to be overly dramatic or emotional. One of the most commonly recognized disorders in this cluster is borderline personality disorder, characterized by impulsive behaviors, unstable relationships, and emotions.
  • Cluster C: Cluster C personality disorders trigger intense feelings and behaviors of anxiety and fear.

Causes of Cluster C Personality Disorders 

Thoughts, behaviors, and emotions form your personality. Personality disorders can skew your personal and social relationships. A combination of genetics, environmental and developmental factors may contribute to developing personality disorders.


One theory suggests that family history has a significant role to play. For example, you are more likely to develop a personality disorder if a parent or sibling has a personality disorder.

Brain Changes

Scientists have observed differences in brain structure in some people with certain personality disorders. In one study, scientists observed a decrease in grey matter in the medial temporal cortex of women with borderline personality disorder.

Cultural Factors

There's a connection between culture and personality disorders. Culture plays a vital role in defining who you are. It dictates many parts of your personality and self-image. Cultures encouraging emotional sensitivity are less likely to shape people who exhibit impulsive and suicidal behaviors.

Trauma and Abuse

Environmental factors also have a role to play, especially when combined with family history. For instance, a history of abuse can make you more susceptible to developing personality disorders. Research shows a strong link between childhood sexual trauma and borderline personality disorder.

Types of Cluster C Personality Disorders 

There are three types of Cluster C personality disorders, each with a set of unique symptoms and characteristics.

Cluster C Types

  1. Avoidant personality disorder
  2. Dependent personality disorder
  3. Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder

Avoidant Personality Disorder 

People with avoidant personality disorder (AVPD) struggle with feelings of inadequacy. They are typically overly sensitive to negative remarks and tend to avoid interacting with other people as a result. They are also likely to have low self-esteem and struggle to interact with new people.

According to the DSM-5-TR, for a diagnosis of AVPD, a person must exhibit a consistent pattern of hypersensitivity to criticism, feelings of inadequacy, and avoiding social interactions.

Dependent Personality Disorder 

As the name implies, dependent personality disorder makes people with the condition over-reliant on other people. They are likely to constantly seek external validation from others and become despondent when they feel they are not receiving adequate support. 

A person with a dependent personality disorder will exhibit people-pleasing behaviors and have an unreasonable fear of separation. A person with this condition must show a persistent need to be taken care of, leading them to become clingy and submissive.

Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD) 

This personality disorder causes a person to develop an inflexible need for order and control. People with this condition are perfectionists and react negatively when people or situations threaten their sense of order. 

OCPD and OCD Are Not the Same Disorders

It’s crucial to understand that obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD) is distinct from obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), a type of anxiety disorder.

People with OCD are typically aware of their condition, while people with OCPD tend to be oblivious to the behaviors they are exhibiting.

  • OCPD is a personality disorder

  • Believes their thoughts and behaviors are right

  • Driven by a need for perfection

  • Capable of functioning efficiently

  • OCD is an anxiety disorder

  • Feels distressed over their thoughts and behaviors

  • Driven by a need to prevent disasters

  • Struggle with daily functioning

Signs & Symptoms: Do I Have a Cluster C Personality Disorder?

Personality disorders are all characterized by changes to your personality. Symptoms of Cluster C personality disorders depend on your Cluster C condition.

You might be wondering if you're exhibiting any signs or symptoms of a Cluster C personality disorder or know someone who is.

Read ahead to learn more about the common signs and symptoms for each type of Cluster C personality disorder.

Avoidant Personality Disorder Symptoms 

People with avoidant personality disorder exhibit behaviors such as:

  • Avoiding work and social activities 
  • Having feelings of inferiority 
  • Being overly sensitive to criticism or negative feedback
  • Having difficulty accepting rejection
  • Being extremely shy or socially awkward 
  • Avoiding meeting new people or trying out new activities 

Dependent Personality Disorder Symptoms 

Dependent personality disorder causes a person to exhibit the following characteristics:

  • Having a constant need to be in romantic relationships 
  • Entering a new romantic relationship as soon as one ends 
  • Having a fear of being alone 
  • Being overly dependent on other people 
  • Being unable to take care of one’s self adequately 
  • Tolerating abusive relationships or situations because of a fear of being alone 
  • Low self-esteem 
  • A constant need for external validation 

Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder Symptoms 

This personality disorder typically causes a person to fixate on minute details and systematization. Other symptoms include:

  • Demanding perfection in all scenarios 
  • Being unable to function at any sign of disorder or disorganization 
  • Demanding perfectionism from themselves and others  
  • Needing to be in control of people and tasks at all times 
  • Being unable to delegate tasks 

Diagnosis of Cluster C Personality Disorders 

Cluster C personality disorders must be diagnosed by a medical or mental health professional. If you are exhibiting symptoms, make an appointment with your healthcare provider as soon as possible. 

The DSM-5-TR provides diagnostic criteria for each personality disorder. After performing a physical exam to evaluate the severity of your symptoms, your doctor will likely compare the symptoms you’ve been exhibiting to the diagnostic criteria provided by the DSM-5-TR. 

Your physical exam involves an in-depth analysis of your family and medical history. Your family history is crucial as Cluster C personality disorders can be passed down through families. 

Cluster C Personality Disorder Treatment 

Treatment for a personality disorder can be challenging. The severity of your symptoms and any comorbid conditions you may have will typically be considered.

Research shows that people with Cluster C personality disorders are at high risk of developing substance use disorder. 

A combination of medication and psychotherapy can be used to manage symptoms.


Although the FDA approves no specific medications for treating personality disorders,your doctor may prescribe medication for particular symptoms. 

If you exhibit signs of depression, your healthcare provider may prescribe antidepressants. Mood stabilizers can also help to regulate your mood if you’ve been experiencing severe mood swings. 


Psychotherapy is a vital treatment tool for many mental health conditions, including personality disorders. You can consider different types of therapy, from group therapy to individual talk therapy. 

Therapy can equip you with the skills to handle social interactions and healthy coping mechanisms to handle challenging emotions. In many cases, psychotherapy is the first line of treatment used to manage personality disorders.

Coping With Cluster C Personality Disorders 

Lifestyle management for personality disorders is just as crucial as treatment is for this group of conditions.

Strategies that you can employ to cope better include:

  • Exercise regularly: Staying physically active is vital when living with a mental health condition. Understandably, however, severe symptoms can make exercise challenging. To overcome this, find an activity you love and do it regularly. This could be swimming, dancing, or simply taking a daily walk in the park. 
  • Join a support group: Knowing you are not alone in dealing with your condition can be empowering. Joining a support group of people with Cluster C personality disorders helps you learn more about your condition and how best to manage it outside your treatment plan. 
  • Don’t stop treatment: It can be tempting to discontinue your treatment, especially when your symptoms are mild or dormant. However, sticking to your treatment plan is crucial until your doctor advises you to stop it. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is ADHD a Cluster C personality disorder?

    No, ADHD is not a personality disorder, it is a neurodevelopmental disorder. However, ADHD is often associated with Cluster B personality disorders (like borderline personality disorder), but a study found that ADHD can also co-occur alongside Cluster C personality disorder traits.

  • Can personality disorders be cured?

    There’s currently no cure for personality disorders; however, they are treatable. Symptoms of personality disorders can be managed with medication and therapy to encourage changed behavior.

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Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Toketemu Ohwovoriole
Toketemu has been multimedia storyteller for the last four years. Her expertise focuses primarily on mental wellness and women’s health topics.