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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Substance abusers' personality disorders and staff members' emotional reactions

Birgitte Thylstrup* and Morten Hesse

Author Affiliations

Aarhus University, Centre for Alcohol and Drug Research, Købmagergade 26E, 1150 Copenhagen C, Denmark

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BMC Psychiatry 2008, 8:21  doi:10.1186/1471-244X-8-21

Published: 10 April 2008



Previous research has indicated that aggressive behaviour and DSM-IV cluster B personality disorders (PD) may be associated with professionals' emotional reactions to clients, and that cluster C PD may be associated with positive emotional reactions.


Staff members recruited from workshops completed a self-report inventory of emotional reactions to patients, the Feeling Word Checklist-58, and substance abusers completed a self-report of DSM-IV personality disorder, the DSM-IV and ICD-10 Personality Disorder Questionnaire. Correlational analysis and multiple regression analysis was used to assess the associations between personality disorders and emotional reations.


Cluster B disorder features were associated with feeling distance to patients, and cluster C disorder features were associated with feeling helpful towards patients. Cluster A disorders had no significant impact on emotional reactions.


The findings confirm clinical experiences that personality disorder features in patients with substance abuse have an impact on staff members reactions to them. These reactions should be considered in supervision of staff, and in treatment models for patients with co-morbid personality disorders and substance abuse.