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Diagnosis of personality disorders in adolescents: a study among psychologists

Elisabeth Martina Petronella Laurenssen12*, Joost Hutsebaut13, Dine Jerta Feenstra12, Jan Jurgen Van Busschbach12 and Patrick Luyten4

Author Affiliations

1 Viersprong Institute for Studies on Personality Disorders (VISPD), P.O. Box 7, 4660 AA, Halsteren, The Netherlands

2 Department of Medical Psychology and Psychotherapy, Erasmus Medical Centre, Rotterdam, The Netherlands

3 MBT Netherlands, Halsteren, The Netherlands

4 Research Department of Clinical, Educational and Health Psychology, Department of Psychology, University of Leuven, Leuven, Belgium and University College London, London, United Kingdom

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Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Mental Health 2013, 7:3  doi:10.1186/1753-2000-7-3

Published: 11 February 2013



Recent guidelines concerning the treatment of personality disorders (PDs) recommend diagnosing PDs in adolescents. However, it remains unclear whether these guidelines influence the current opinions and practices of mental health care professionals.


Five hundred sixty-six psychologists completed an online survey concerning PDs in adolescents, of whom 367 professionals reported working with adolescents. The survey contained demographical questions (age, gender, profession, work setting) and specific questions related to PD in adolescence.


Although a majority of psychologists working with adolescents acknowledged the existence of PDs in adolescents (57.8%), only a small minority diagnoses PDs in adolescence (8.7%) and offers a treatment specifically aimed at targeting PD pathology (6.5%). Reasons for not diagnosing PDs in adolescence mainly concerned the belief that adolescent personality problems are transient (41.2%) and that the DSM-IV-TR does not allow diagnosing PDs in adolescence (25.9%).


Although practice guidelines might have influenced clinicians’ opinions about PDs in adolescence, they have had little impact so far on routine clinical practice.

Personality disorders; Adolescents; Psychologists; Online survey