Vulnerability of personality disorder during COVID-19 crises: a multicenter survey of mental and social distress among patients referred to treatment

Nord J Psychiatry. 2021 Aug 9:1-12. doi: 10.1080/08039488.2021.1942980. Online ahead of print.


BACKGROUND: Relational and emotional problems, dysregulation, self-harming or substance abuse often characterize personality disorders (PD). In Norway, COVID-19 restrictions led to an abrupt shutdown of services from 12 March 2020 also including specialized PD treatments.

AIMS: The objective of this study was to investigate social and mental distress among patients with PDs during the first COVID-19 wave.

DESIGN: A survey was distributed after the first COVID-19 wave (June-October 2020) among 1120 patients from 12 PD treatment units.

RESULTS: The response rate was 12% (N = 133). The survey reflected impairment of occupational activity (53% <50% activity last 6 months), life quality (EQ-5D-VAS: 56, SD 19), and personality functioning (LPFS-BF ≥12: 81%, 35% avoidant PD, 44% borderline PD) and high levels of depression and anxiety (PHQ-9 ≥ 10: 84%, GAD-7 ≥ 10: 68%), 49% with health-related anxiety. Problem increase was reported for anxiety (28%), depression (24%), aggression (23%), substance use (14%), and 70% of parents had more child-care difficulties. Self-destructive behaviors (26%) did not increase. The majority (78%) reported increased or unchanged social isolation and loneliness. Occupational activity declined with negative effects on part-time jobs/rehabilitation. Therapist contact was mainly telephone-based (63% ≥ weekly contact). More severe personality problems, current depressive symptoms, and self-harming before 12 March were associated with more frequent consultations.

CONCLUSION: The survey confirms severe, enhanced levels of mental distress among patients receiving telephone-based consultations as the main alternative to specialized PD treatment during the COVID-19 shutdown. The most vulnerable patients received more frequent consultations and self-destructive actions did not increase.

PMID:34369842 | DOI:10.1080/08039488.2021.1942980

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