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The Royal College of Psychiatrists Improving the lives of people with mental illness

RCPsych conference: Personality disorders ‘going undiagnosed’

Embargoed until 28 January 2009

Personality disorders are going undiagnosed in the NHS and in the prison service, the chair of the NICE Borderline Personality Disorder Group has said.

Speaking at a landmark conference in London today, psychiatrist Dr Tim Kendall calls for more training to help mental health professionals recognise and treat personality disorders, and to help with prevention by helping parents and children at an early stage.

The conference on the roots and origins of personality disorder in childhood has been organised by the Royal College of Psychiatrists' Education and Training Centre. It is being held on the day that NICE (the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence) launches two new sets of guidance on borderline personality disorder and antisocial personality disorder.

Dr Kendall, who is also joint director of the National Collaborating Centre for Mental Health, said: “Two million people in the UK are affected by personality disorder and, as a group, cost a great deal to the NHS, to society and to the individual. However, personality disorders are not being recognised and are often undiagnosed within the NHS and the criminal justice system.

“Personality disorders have often been thought of as untreatable and frequently stigmatised by professionals and the public alike. This is simply wrong. People with personality disorders can be helped, especially adults and adolescents with borderline personality disorder, and there is more and more evidence that helping children and their parents early on can prevent the progression to personality disorders in later life.”

Personality disorders are most frequently characterised by disturbed interpersonal relationships, a history of fractured families, emotional neglect and, at times, abusive experiences. They are commonly associated with a wide range of other mental health problems, such as anxiety, depression, alcohol and drug misuse, eating disorders and post-traumatic stress disorder. 

Dr Kendall added: “People with personality disorders are a very vulnerable group whose needs for health and social care have been ignored and shunned for far too long; and far too little has been done to help children and there families in prevention programmes at an earlier stage. That is why this conference is so timely and so important. Unless attitudes change within prisons, the health service and amongst the wider public, this long-suffering group will continue to suffer.”

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Sarah Nevins
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Claire McLoughlin
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The Roots and Origins of Personality Disorder conference, London, 28 January 2009


Note to editors:

The Roots and Origins of Personality Disorder conference is the first in a series of three children’s mental health conferences being organised by the Royal College of Psychiatrists in 2009. Forthcoming conferences will focus on ADHD (30 April 2009) and depression (2 July 2009).


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