Treatment utilization by patients with personality disorders

Am J Psychiatry. 2001 Feb;158(2):295-302. doi: 10.1176/appi.ajp.158.2.295.


Objective: Utilization of mental health treatment was compared in patients with personality disorders and patients with major depressive disorder without personality disorder.

Method: Semistructured interviews were used to assess diagnosis and treatment history of 664 patients in four representative personality disorder groups-schizotypal, borderline, avoidant, and obsessive-compulsive-and in a comparison group of patients with major depressive disorder.

Results: Patients with personality disorders had more extensive histories of psychiatric outpatient, inpatient, and psychopharmacologic treatment than patients with major depressive disorder. Compared to the depression group, patients with borderline personality disorder were significantly more likely to have received every type of psychosocial treatment except self-help groups, and patients with obsessive-compulsive personality disorder reported greater utilization of individual psychotherapy. Patients with borderline personality disorder were also more likely to have used antianxiety, antidepressant, and mood stabilizer medications, and those with borderline or schizotypal personality disorder had a greater likelihood of having received antipsychotic medications. Patients with borderline personality disorder had received greater amounts of treatment, except for family/couples therapy and self-help, than the depressed patients and patients with other personality disorders.

Conclusions: These results underscore the importance of considering personality disorders in diagnosis and treatment of psychiatric patients. Borderline and schizotypal personality disorder are associated with extensive use of mental health resources, and other, less severe personality disorders may not be addressed sufficiently in treatment planning. More work is needed to determine whether patients with personality disorders are receiving adequate and appropriate mental health treatments.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Ambulatory Care / statistics & numerical data
  • Borderline Personality Disorder / drug therapy
  • Borderline Personality Disorder / therapy
  • Compulsive Personality Disorder / drug therapy
  • Compulsive Personality Disorder / therapy
  • Day Care, Medical
  • Depressive Disorder / drug therapy
  • Depressive Disorder / therapy
  • Female
  • Hospitalization / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Health Services / statistics & numerical data*
  • Middle Aged
  • Personality Disorders / drug therapy
  • Personality Disorders / therapy*
  • Psychotherapy
  • Psychotropic Drugs / therapeutic use
  • Schizotypal Personality Disorder / drug therapy
  • Schizotypal Personality Disorder / therapy
  • Self-Help Groups


  • Psychotropic Drugs