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J Affect Disord. 2005 Jan;84(1):33-42.

Social functioning and personality of subjects at familial risk for affective disorder.

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Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, University of Freiburg, Hauptstr. 5, D-79104 Freiburg, Germany.



Particular patterns of personality (e.g., neuroticism, obsessionality) and difficulties in various social roles have been found to be associated with unipolar depression. Interpersonal and instrumental difficulties of depressives can be understood either as a risk factor, or as a consequence caused by the disorder itself. Concerning patients with bipolar disorder, there is some evidence that their premorbid level of occupational and educational achievement is often superior when compared to the premorbid functioning of patients with unipolar depression.


Personality features and the level of social functioning of 114 high-risk subjects (healthy first-degree relatives of patients suffering from an affective disorder) have been investigated using self- and expert-ratings. Sixty-three subjects without a personal and family history of psychiatric disorder served as the reference group.


Relatives of melancholic depressives described themselves as more neurotic than controls but proved to be inconspicuous regarding their role functioning. Relatives of bipolar I patients were more strongly oriented toward social norms, and their instrumental role functioning was superior to that of controls. Neuroticism was strongly associated with depressive symptoms.


The statistical power of our data is sufficient to detect medium effect sizes but is insufficient for identifying small group differences.


Whether these discriminating personality features and other variables (not characterising the high-risk group (HRG) as a whole) act as true vulnerability factor have to be clarified by a follow-up investigation.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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