Depressive personality disorder is a somewhat controversial diagnosis as it is currently not recognized as an actual personality disorder. It was originally included in the (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) DSM-II, but it was later removed from the more recent DSM-III and DSM-III-R.

This disorder is now categorized as a “personality disorder not otherwise specified.” Other personality disorders in this category are passive-aggressive, sadistic, and self-defeating personality disorder, among others. More research needs to be done on these disorders for them to be truly recognized as actual personality disorders.

This disorder is currently described in Appendix B in the DSM-IV-TR as worthy of further study. So, it may become reinstated in future versions of the DSM (as of 2019). However, it can be very difficult for psychologists to decipher the subtle differences between someone who has this condition or major depressive disorder, or even avoidant personality disorder, among others.

Symptoms of Depressive Personality Disorder

According to the DSM-IV, depressive personality disorder is defined as “a pervasive pattern of depressive cognition’s and behaviors beginning by early adulthood and occurring in a variety of contexts.” This condition occurs before, during, and after major depressive episodes. Thus, making it a distinct diagnosis. Specifically, five or more of the following must be present most days for at least two years in order for a diagnosis of depressive personality disorder to be made:

  • Mood is typically dominated by dejection, gloominess, cheerlessness, joylessness and unhappiness
  • Is prone to feeling guilty or remorseful
  • Self-concept centers on beliefs of inadequacy, worthlessness and low self-esteem
  • Is critical, blaming and derogatory towards the self
  • Is negativistic, critical and judgmental toward others
  • Is pessimistic
  • Is brooding and given to worry


There is no known cause of depressive personality disorder. However, genetics and one’s environment may play very significant roles. For instance, if someone has a family history of mental illness, especially with personality disorders, then they may have a higher risk for developing this disorder. This is likely due to them also having a higher chance of being genetically predisposed to developing mental illness.


Talk therapy may be very advantageous for someone suffering from this condition. Typically, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is used to treat people suffering from symptoms of depression. CBT may be able to help the person suffering with depressive personality disorder by revealing why it is that they think and behave the way they do. This can allow them to improve their cognition by practicing more effective thought patterns.

Besides CBT, antidepressants may also be beneficial for someone suffering from this illness. However, merely taking medication alone without any form of talk therapy may not be as effective for long term improvement. Nevertheless, this is something that you should first discuss with your doctor.

If you think you may have depressive personality disorder or if you are suffering from some of the symptoms of this condition, then you should talk to your doctor as soon as you can so that you can be properly diagnosed and treated.