BACKGROUND: Although personality disorders are common and consequential, they are largely ignored in geriatric mental healthcare. We examined the relative contributions of different aspects of personality disorders and comorbid mental disorders to the impairment of mental wellbeing in older adults.
METHODS: Baseline data were used of 138 patients who participated in a randomized controlled trial on schema therapy for geriatric mental health outpatients with a full or subthreshold cluster B or C personality disorder. Personality was assessed according to both the categorical and dimensional model of DSM-5. Aspects of mental wellbeing assessed were; psychological distress, positive mental health, subjective health, and life satisfaction. The current study uses baseline data of the RCT to examine the associations between different aspects of personality pathology and mental wellbeing by multivariate regression analysis, controlling for age, sex, level of education, and number of chronic somatic illnesses.
RESULTS: The vast majority of patients (79.0%) had one or more mental disorders in addition to personality disorder. Personality pathology was responsible for the core of the mental health burden experienced by patients, and negated the influence of co-occurring mental disorders when entered subsequently in multivariate analysis. Personality dimensions proved to be highly predictive of mental wellbeing, and this contrasted with absence of influence of personality disorder diagnosis. Although the personality functioning dimensions - and in particular Identity integration (large effect size with partial eta-squared = 0.36) - were the primary predictors of mental wellbeing, personality trait dimensions added significant predictive value to that (Disinhibition 0.25 and Negative affect 0.24).
CONCLUSIONS: Personality disorders seriously affect the mental wellbeing of patients, and this overshadows the impact of comorbid mental disorders. In particular personality functioning and pathological traits of the Alternative Model of Personality Disorders (AMPD) of DSM-5 contribute to this impact on mental wellbeing. Alertness for and treatment of personality disorders in geriatric mental healthcare seems warranted.