Cluster A Personality Disorders: Paranoid, Schizoid and Schizotypal

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  • 0:07 Personality Disorders
  • 1:54 Paranoid Personality Disorder
  • 3:32 Schizoid Personality Disorder
  • 4:47 Schizotypal…
  • 5:59 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What happens when people are paranoid, withdrawn, or weird? In this lesson, we'll look at the three cluster A personality disorders, which are characterized by odd or eccentric behavior and thoughts.

Personality Disorders

Peter doesn't trust anyone. It goes beyond a normal suspicion; Peter truly believes that everyone else is out to get him. When someone on the street happens to glance his way, he yells at them because he's convinced that they are secretly plotting against him.

Steve isn't paranoid like Peter, but he has his own problems. He doesn't really feel much of anything and he doesn't even try to connect with others. When people try to talk to him, Steve ignores them or responds in a cold, unfriendly way.

While Peter seems hostile and Steve seems unfeeling, Sal appears to others to be downright weird. He sees messages everywhere, like when the president gives a speech, Sal thinks he can decode messages meant just for him. Not only that, Sal believes he can change or control other people's thoughts with his own.

Peter, Steve, and Sal are all suffering from personality disorders, or psychological disorders that involve having interpersonal difficulties. Personality disorders are divided into three different clusters, with each cluster covering three or four disorders that have something in common. Think of them kind of like an orchard. Each tree is a cluster, and each branch is a personality disorder.

Peter, Steve, and Sal are all suffering from disorders commonly grouped into cluster A. In this cluster, patients act odd or eccentric and avoid relationships with others. They often do not show very much emotion. Let's look closer at the three disorders in cluster A, including what they have in common and what distinguishes them from each other.

Paranoid Personality Disorder

Let's start with Peter. He's got a serious suspicion of others and thinks everyone is out to get him. Some people might even call him paranoid, which is where the name of his disorder comes from: Peter is suffering from paranoid personality disorder, which is characterized by hostility and distrust of others, among other symptoms.

No matter what's actually happening in the real world, patients like Peter see events and actions as proof that there's a plan afoot. For example, if Peter is wearing a particularly snazzy suit and someone at work notices, he thinks they must be watching him to report back to some larger entity that's plotting against him.

Because paranoid personality disorder patients interpret every action by others as hostile, they react in a hostile fashion to the people around them. They might yell or act violently, which makes forging a friendship or other type of relationship very difficult.

Despite their hostility, though, people like Peter might also show very little emotion. They are emotionally detached and don't feel the same spectrum of feelings that most people do. Usually, the only time they are emotional is when they are reacting with hostility and distrust.

Of course, because paranoid personality disorder patients are suspicious, it is very difficult to get them into treatment. Peter won't just walk into a psychologist's office on his own because he thinks that the psychologist is out to get him, too. Usually, patients like Peter are forced into therapy by loved ones or by the court, and even then, it can be hard to get them to open up in therapy.

Schizoid Personality Disorder

Remember Steve? He doesn't really feel much of anything and comes across as cold and unfeeling to the people around him. Steve is suffering from schizoid personality disorder, which involves a lack of emotions and withdrawal from social situations.

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