Occupational functioning and work impairment in association with personality disorder trait-scores

Hengartner, Michael ; Müller, Mario ; Rodgers, Stephanie ; Rössler, Wulf ; Ajdacic-Gross, Vladeta

In: Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, 2014, vol. 49, no. 2, p. 327-335

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    Purpose: According to the DSM, functional impairment is a main criterion for the general definition of personality disorders (PDs), but research suggests that some PDs might not be related to impaired functioning. Occupational functioning has rarely been examined in all ten DSM PDs. Methods: We analysed 511 adults aged 20-41years from the general population of the canton of Zurich, Switzerland, using data from the Epidemiology Survey of the Zurich Programme for Sustainable Development of Mental Health Services. All PDs were assessed with dimensional trait-scores and associations with indicators of occupational functioning were analysed with generalised linear models. Results: Each PD revealed at least a weak association with some form of occupational impairment. Most PDs, especially from cluster A and B, were significantly related to occupational dysfunction, in particular low education level, conflicts in the workplace, dismissal or demotion, and unemployment. In contrast, obsessive-compulsive PD was mostly unrelated to occupational functioning. A total personality pathology dose-response relationship was observed for low education level, conflicts in the workplace, dismissal or demotion, and unemployment. Conclusions: Impairment in occupational functioning is an important aspect particularly of cluster A and B PDs. Assuming that functional impairment is a predictor of illness severity, we advocate that clinicians should carefully explore indicators of occupational functioning in the diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment of PDs. The findings discussed herein have implications for general treatment, interventions in the work environment, or re-integration of patients into the labour force.