Medication prescribed to people with personality disorder: the influence of patient factors and treatment setting

Acta Psychiatr Scand. 2011 Nov;124(5):396-402. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0447.2011.01728.x. Epub 2011 Jun 27.


Objective: To examine the extent of use and clinical rationale for the prescribing of psychotropic drugs for people with personality disorder (PD) who are in contact with mental health services.

Method: Clinical records of 278 patients with a primary diagnosis of PD were examined.

Results: Just over 80% (N = 225) of patients were being prescribed psychotropic medication. One in five was prescribed three or more drugs. People with comorbid mental disorders were more likely to receive psychotropic medication. Half those prescribed antidepressants had no record of depression in their records. While drug treatments were mostly prescribed for depressive and psychotic symptoms, they were also used to try to manage behavioural problems such as self-harm or given in response to patient requests for treatment. People receiving specialist PD services (OR = 0.35, 95% CI = 0.13-0.95) or other specialist services (OR = 0.24, 95% CI = 0.10-0.60) were less likely to be prescribed drug treatments.

Conclusion: Drug treatments are widely used for people with PD despite the relatively weak evidence base. Both the type of personality problem and the context in which treatment is delivered appear to have an impact on whether drug treatments are prescribed.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antidepressive Agents / therapeutic use
  • Depression / drug therapy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Health Services / statistics & numerical data
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Personality Disorders / drug therapy*
  • Personality Disorders / psychology
  • Prescription Drugs / therapeutic use
  • Psychotropic Drugs / therapeutic use*


  • Antidepressive Agents
  • Prescription Drugs
  • Psychotropic Drugs