Objective: To determine the long-term social function of psychiatric patients with anxiety and depressive disorders and to relate this to personality status and other factors.
Method: A cohort of 210 patients (mean age 35 years) with dysthymic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder or panic disorder diagnosed using a structured interview (SCID) were assessed at baseline for personality status using the Personality Assessment Schedule (PAS) and ratings of anxiety and depression. Exactly 12 years later social function was assessed using the Social Functioning Questionnaire (SFQ) and personality reassessed with the PAS by a rater blind to initial personality status. Individual social function items were examined in those with and without personality disorders.
Results: Social function was significantly better in those with little or no baseline personality disturbance (P < 0.001) and the domains of close relationships, stress in completing tasks, use of spare time and family relationships showed the largest personality differences. A multiple linear regression model showed that self-rated depression scores, single marital status and personality status were the main baseline variables predicting social function at 12 years.
Conclusion: Although personality characteristics may change over time social dysfunction persists and persistent social dysfunction in mental state disorders may be a strong indicator of personality disturbance rather than an indicator of treatment resistance.