Assessment and management of personality disorders

TitleAssessment and management of personality disorders
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2004
AuthorsWard, R. K.
JournalAm Fam Physician
Volume70
Pagination1505-12
Date PublishedOct
Abstract

Patients with personality disorders are common in primary care settings; caring for them can be difficult and frustrating. The characteristics of these patients' personalities tend to elicit strong feelings in physicians, lead to the development of problematic physician-patient relationships, and complicate the task of diagnosing and managing medical and psychiatric disorders. These chronic, inflexible styles of perceiving oneself and interacting with others vary widely in presentation. In the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th ed., these styles are categorized into three clusters based on their prominent characteristics: cluster A, the odd or eccentric (e.g., paranoid, schizoid, schizotypal); cluster B, the dramatic, emotional, or erratic (e.g., antisocial, borderline, histrionic, narcissistic); and cluster C, the anxious or fearful (e.g., avoidant, dependent, obsessive-compulsive). Knowledge of the core characteristics of these disorders allows physicians to recognize, diagnose, and treat affected patients. The goal of management is to develop a working relationship with patients to help them receive the best possible care despite their chronic difficulties in interacting with physicians and the health care system. Effective interpersonal management strategies exist for these patients. These strategies vary depending on the specific diagnosis, and include interventions such as the use of specific communication styles, the establishment of clear boundaries, limit setting on the patients' behavior and use of medical resources, and provision of reassurance when appropriate. Additionally, medications may be useful in treating specific symptoms in some patients.

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