We investigated whether and how acute depressive symptoms affect the self-report of maladaptive personality traits. Sixty-eight acutely depressed patients underwent the Structured Interview for DSM–III Personality Disorder (SIDP) before and after pharmacological treatment, allowing us to determine whether self-reported maladaptive personality traits are different during depression and after successful clinical recovery. After the initial SIDP administration (during an episode of major depression), patients received desipramine treatment (dose range 150–300 mg/day) over a course of 4–5 weeks before readministration of the SIDP. For those who recovered from their depression (n = 39), cluster III trait scores were significantly lower than those assessed at baseline, and there was a lower frequency of cluster III categorical diagnoses for a personality disorder after treatment than before treatment. Recovered patients also had significantly lower cluster I personality trait scores after treatment as compared with baseline ratings. For those who did not recover from their depression after treatment (n = 29), cluster I trait scores were in fact higher than those measured at baseline, but there were no differences in categorical diagnoses before and after treatment. Cluster II personality traits and categorical diagnoses were not different between those who did and did not recover from their depression. Thus, depression may have a significant effect on the assessment of cluster I and cluster III personality traits. It is possible that cluster I and III ‘personality traits’ may be interwoven with depressive features and therefore subject to state influences, whereas cluster II personality traits may entail enduring, long-term characteristic modes of thinking, feeling, and behaving.