June 2002

From Lancet

Personality disorders change over time

N. B. Please note that if you are outside North America the embargo date for all Lancet press material is 0001hours UK time Friday 28 June 2002

A research letter in this week's issue of THE LANCET challenges the widely held view that personality disorders do not change over a long period of time.

Personality disorders, by contrast with other mental disorders, are generally considered to be persistent. Helen Seivewright and Peter Tyrer from Imperial College School of Medicine, London, UK, followed up 88% of 202 individuals with a neurotic disorder, all of whom had been given a personality assessment twelve years previously. The investigators reassessed the personality status of those patients who were still alive at follow-up using the same test (the Personality Assessment Schedule).

The personality traits of patients who had previously been categorised as the flamboyant group (characterised by antisocial and/or histrionic behaviour) became significantly less pronounced over 12 years; the behaviour of those previously assigned to the other categories-- the odd/eccentric group, and the anxious/fearful group-- became more pronounced.

Peter Tyrer comments: "Although there have long been indications that antisocial and impulsive personalities mature and lessen with age this is the first time that we have clear evidence that anxious, obsessional, suspicious, and withdrawn traits increase with older age. This suggests that similar findings in some cross-sectional studies represent a genuine change in personality status over time. These results are pertinent for all developed nations where the average age of the population is increasing; if the findings are replicated in other groups apart from those with common neurotic disorders, it has important implications for health services, treatment interventions and quality of life." (Quote by e-mail; does not appear in published paper).

Contact: Professor Peter Tyrer, Department of Psychological Medicine, Division of Neuroscience and Psychological Medicine, St Mary's Campus, Imperial College School of Medicine, Paterson Centre, 20 South Wharf Road, London W2 1PD, UK; T) +44 (0)20 7886 1648; F) +44 (0)20 7886 1995; E) p.tyrer@ic.ac.uk











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