Although previous reports have documented mean-level declines in personality disorder (PD) symptoms over time, little is known about whether personality pathology sometimes emerges among nonsymptomatic adults, or whether rates of change differ qualitatively among symptomatic persons. Our study sought to characterize heterogeneity in the longitudinal course of PD symptoms with the goal of testing for and describing latent trajectories. Participants were 250 young adults selected into two groups using a PD screening measure: those who met diagnostic criteria for a DSM-III-R PD (PPD, n 129), and those with few PD symptoms (NoPD, n 121). PD symptoms were assessed three times over a 4-year study using semistructured interviews. Total PD symptom counts and symptoms of each DSM-III-R PD were analyzed using growth mixture modeling. In the NoPD group, latent trajectories were characterized by stable, minor symptoms; the rapid or gradual remission of subclinical symptoms; or the emergence of symptoms of avoidant, obsessive-compulsive, or paranoid PD. In the PPD group, three latent trajectories were evident: rapid symptom remission, slow symptom decline, or a relative absence of symptoms. Rapid remission of PD symptoms was associated with fewer comorbid disorders, lower Negative Emotionality, and greater Positive Emotionality and Constraint, whereas emergent personality dysfunction was associated with comorbid PD symptoms and lower Positive Emotionality. In most cases, symptom change for one PD was associated with concomitant changes in other PDs, depressive symptoms, and anxiety. These results indicate that the longitudinal course of PD symptoms is heterogeneous, with distinct trajectories evident for both symptomatic and nonsymptomatic individuals. The prognosis of PD symptoms may be informed by an assessment of personality and comorbid psychopathology.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Psychiatry and Mental health
- Biological Psychiatry