Assessing personality: a guide for students

Saxby Pridmore


A good understanding of personality is fundamental to all psychiatric assessments and management. The aim of this paper is to present some basic information on personality which may be useful to students.

What is personality?

Personality can be defined as “those features of the individual which determine that individual’s unique response to the environment”. There are other longer definitions, but this one is very appropriate to psychiatry. It tells us why an understanding of personality is fundamental to the field. It tells us that when we have a good understanding of the personality of the individual we are better able to predict his/her future behavior. In particular, it helps us to look forward, to predict (to some extent) his/her response to treatment. It tells us whether he/she will be able to form a trusting relationship with a therapist, whether he/she will co-operate with recommendations, keep appointments, and comply with medication directions.