Recently, the severity of general personality dysfunction has gained broad interest in personality disorder (PD) research. We analysed data of 511 participants aged 20-41 years from a comprehensive psychiatric survey in the general population of Zurich, Switzerland. We added the trait-scores from all DSM-IV PDs, as assessed by a self-report questionnaire, to provide a measure of general personality dysfunction. Adjusting for the Big Five personality domains as a proxy for stylistic PD elements, this composite PD score exhibited strong associations with neuroticism and schizotypy. General personality dysfunction additionally revealed a moderate detrimental association with psychosocial functioning and a strong effect on coping resources, on heavy drinking and drug use and on most psychopathological syndromes. Of particular interest is the strong association with total psychopathological distress and co-occurrence of multiple disorders, suggesting that increasing PD severity relates to the degree of global impairment independent of specific PD traits. Discussed herein are implications for public mental health policies, classification, conceptualization and treatment of PDs. Copyright (c) 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.