A major feature of personality disorders is significant impairment in interpersonal functioning, which may create challenges in close relationships. This article aims to systematically review the experience of carers of persons with personality disorders.
The PRISMA systematic review method was followed, and empirical studies written in English, published between 1996 and 2011, and cited in major electronic databases were searched. Studies meeting the following selection criteria were included: (1) carers or families of persons with personality disorders; (2) intervention involving the carers or families; (3) burden or related construct used. Studies were required to meet either criteria 1 and 3 or criteria 2 and 3. Reference lists were scanned, and experts were consulted for further studies.
Six studies met inclusion criteria, representing data on 465 carers. Five of the six studies focused on carers of persons with borderline personality disorder. The findings indicated that carers experience elevated objective and subjective burden, grief, impaired empowerment, and mental health problems, including depression and anxiety. Scores on objective and subjective burden were half a standard deviation above the mean compared to carers of inpatients with other serious mental illnesses.
This study is the first to report data on a large, aggregated sample of carers of persons with personality disorders. Significant gaps in the literature remain, and it is recommended that future research focus on the burden and support needs of carers of persons across different personality disorders, that attention be paid to the gender balance of patients, and that data be reported in a way to allow meta-analysis.