Objectives: To investigate the relationship between psychiatric symptoms, personality disturbance, and social function.
Method: Longitudinal study of 100 psychiatric patients presenting as emergencies originally entered to a randomised trial of community and hospital-based treatment strategies. Ratings of social function using the Social Functioning Questionnaire, personality status using the Personality Assessment Schedule, and clinical symptomatology using the Comprehensive Psycho-pathological Rating Scale were recorded at baseline with assessment of social function repeated at two, four and 12 weeks. Correlation, regression, and path analysis were performed to test the hypothesis that personality status had more influence than clinical symptoms on social function.
Results: Path and regression analysis showed, that at baseline both psychopathology and personality pathology contributed to social dysfunction equally, but from two weeks onwards personality abnormality contributed to a greater degree than clinical psychopathology. Of the 100, 35 patients had a personality disorder and in these there was a strong correlation between social function scores at baseline and 12 weeks (48% of variation explained) whereas in those with no personality disorder the correlation was much weaker (14%); regression analyses confirmed this conclusion.
Conclusions: Psychopathology and personality status contribute to social dysfunction in patients presenting as emergencies but persistent social dysfunction is more likely to reflect personality pathology than other forms of mental disorder.