Clinical Features of Personality Disorders: Identity & Interpersonal Difficulties

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  • 0:07 Personality Disorders
  • 1:28 Types of Personality Disorders
  • 3:48 Identity Disturbance
  • 5:38 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Natalie Boyd

Natalie is a teacher and holds an MA in English Education and is in progress on her PhD in psychology.

What makes some people unsuccessful at interpersonal relationships? In this lesson, we'll look at the interpersonal and identity issues that face patients with personality disorders.

Personality Disorders

Doug feels different from most people. He feels really anxious all the time, and sometimes has to fight back panic attacks. His mood changes rapidly from one extreme to the other. One minute he'll feel like he's on top of the world, and the next he'll feel like he just wants to crawl into a hole and die.

Not only that, Doug feels like a ghost. All of his friends and family seem to have a sense of who they are and what they believe. But Doug feels like a leaf blowing in the wind: He has no real sense of identity, and doesn't know who he is or what he believes. He almost feels like a piece of scenery, not a person.

Doug might be suffering from a personality disorder, a group of psychological disorders that involve patterns of behavior or moods that make it difficult to have close relationships. There are many types of personality disorders, and they all are a little different. All come with some sort of interpersonal difficulties. That is, people with personality disorders have a hard time with their relationships with others.

In addition, some personality disorders include symptoms like impulsivity and identity disturbance. Let's look closer at the types of interpersonal difficulties involved in personality disorders and how identity disturbance can affect people with some personality disorders.


As we mentioned, personality disorders all include some sort of interpersonal difficulties. Take Doug, for instance. Because his mood swings so much, he can't really hold down any relationships. Not only that, but his anxiety and his identity issues keep him from being able to relate to anyone.

In general, personality disorders are divided into groups, called 'clusters,' and the clusters are defined by the specific types of interpersonal difficulties that people in the cluster face. The personality disorders clusters are:

1. Cluster A

Cluster A patients have paranoid personality disorder, schizoid personality disorder or schizotypal personality disorder. All of these have in common the fact that the person distrusts others and/or feels very few emotions. As a result, they have problems interacting with others. You can remember the cluster A disorders by thinking of the word 'avoid.' That's what they do; they avoid others.

2. Cluster B

Cluster B patients have antisocial personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, histrionic personality disorder or narcissistic personality disorder. All of these disorders involve being very emotional or dramatic.

Remember that Doug experiences anxiety and his mood swings from one extreme to another. These are symptoms of a cluster B disorder. You can remember the cluster B disorders by thinking of the word 'big.' Their emotions and reactions are so big that they have trouble relating to others.

3. Cluster C

Cluster C patients have avoidant personality disorder, dependent personality disorder or obsessive-compulsive personality disorder. These patients are full of fear and can't relate to others because they are too scared. You can remember the cluster C disorders with the word 'cautious.'

Their caution is so extreme that it keeps them from being able to relate to others. So, essentially, all personality disorder patients have trouble relating to others, but the exact nature of their interpersonal difficulties depends on which cluster they belong to.

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