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The Prevalence of Personality Disorders in Hypochondriasis
Background: Although Axis I hypochondriasis is closely related to certain personality characteristics, the nature and extent of personality dysfunction in these patients still needs clarification. This study assessed the prevalence of personality disorders observed in hypochondriacal patients, described the types and comorbidity of personality disorders, and compared the psychological distress of patients with and without the most common comorbid personality disorder.
Method: One hundred fifteen patients meeting Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, criteria for hypochondriasis completed self-administered assessments, including the Personality Diagnostic Questionnaire-4+ (PDQ-4+), the Hopkins Symptom Checklist-90-Revised (SCL-90-R), the Whiteley Index, and the Somatic Symptom Inventory. These data were taken from a study conducted between September 1997 and November 2001.
Results: Eighty-eight patients (76.5%) had 1 or more personality disorders, whereas 27 patients (23.5%) had no personality disorders. Fifty-one patients (44.3%) had more than 3 personality disorders. The most common personality disorder in the hypochondriacal patients was obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD; 55.7%), followed by avoidant personality disorder (40.9%). The comorbidity of OCPD and avoidant personality disorder was 53.1% (34 of 64 patients with OCPD). The total PDQ-4+ score of the 64 patients with OCPD was significantly higher than that of the 51 patients without OCPD. On the SCL-90-R, the 64 patients with OCPD showed significantly higher scores on all of 3 global indices and 7 of 10 primary symptom dimensions (paranoid ideation, depression, anxiety, phobic anxiety, obsessive-compulsive, interpersonal sensitivity, and psychoticism) on the SCL-90-R compared to the 51 patients without OCPD.
Conclusions: The high prevalence of personality disorders, particularly OCPD, among patients with hypochondriasis suggests that consideration of personality features is important in assessment and therapeutic interventions for hypochondriasis.
Submitted: October 3, 2008; accepted February 12, 2009
Corresponding author and reprints: Reiko Sakai, MD, Department of Psychiatry, Brigham and Women’s Hospital (c/o Arthur J. Barsky, MD), 75 Francis St, Boston, MA 02115 (firstname.lastname@example.org).