Analyzing Handwriting To Identify Personality Disorders

Handwriting analysis, also known as graphology, is the study and analysis of an individual’s handwriting to assess their personality traits and characteristics. Researchers have explored using handwriting analysis to identify signs of mental illness and personality disorders. The theory is that subtle elements within a person’s handwriting, such as size, slant, spacing, and pressure can reveal insights into their state of mind, emotional regulation, and behavior patterns.

While techniques of handwriting analysis have been around for centuries, more recent studies have attempted to quantify and validate which specific handwriting features may correlate to different personality disorders. Researchers suggest that computerized handwriting analysis using sophisticated algorithms may have potential as an objective tool to aid in diagnosis and treatment. However, more research is needed to determine the validity and clinical utility of using handwriting analysis for identifying personality disorders.

History of Handwriting Analysis

The analysis of handwriting to assess personality and character has been practiced for over 400 years. The first systematic graphological research can be traced to the Italian Camillo Baldi’s 1622 book Tratto Come da una lettera Missiva si Conoscano la Natura e Qualita dello Scrittore, which focused on analyzing handwriting characteristics. Graphology emerged as a tool in Britain in the 18th century when painters like Gainsborough analyzed handwriting samples (The History of Graphology, n.d.).

In the 19th century, French abbot Jean-Hippolyte Michon became known as the father of modern graphology through his extensive research correlating handwriting features with psychology and health. Graphology continued gaining prominence in Europe through the early 20th century as psychologists studied connections between handwriting and personality traits. The techniques were increasingly applied in employee screening, criminal investigations, and psychotherapy (History of Graphology, n.d.).

Correlations Between Handwriting and Psychology

Numerous studies over the past century have explored potential connections between handwriting features and personality traits or psychological conditions. In 2015, a review by Gowda et al. [1] summarized past research linking handwriting to traits such as intelligence, gender, honesty, aggression, generosity, exhibitionism, impulsiveness, and perseverance. They note that graphologists have associated particular slants, sizes, shapes, pressures, and spacings in handwriting with certain personality traits, though the reliability of these associations is debated.

More recently, Gavrilescu et al. 2018 [2] used computerized handwriting analysis and machine learning algorithms to predict scores on the Big Five personality inventory with moderate accuracy. Their research suggests handwriting features contain signals correlated with major personality traits like extraversion, agreeableness and conscientiousness.

Yang et al. 2022 [3] utilized fMRI brain imaging to examine connections between handwriting and personality traits. Their results also indicate links between handwriting patterns and traits related to mood and self-control. Overall, an accumulation of research demonstrates measurable correlations between handwriting and various aspects of personality or psychology, though more work is needed to increase predictive accuracy and reliability.

Using Handwriting Analysis to Assess Mental Health

Several studies have examined the possibility of using handwriting analysis to identify different mental illnesses and disorders. In one study published in the Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research, researchers analyzed the handwriting samples of 60 patients diagnosed with schizophrenia and compared them to 60 healthy control participants (Gowda et al., 2015). They found several significant differences, including more variability in letter size, more spaces between words, and poorer legibility in the handwriting of patients with schizophrenia.

Another study published in the Northern Clinics of Istanbul examined handwriting samples from 30 patients experiencing manic episodes related to bipolar disorder (Nusret, 2022). The researchers identified features like macrographia (large handwriting), increased writing speed, and elevated pen pressure in the handwriting of manic patients compared to controls.

While these preliminary findings show promise, more research is still needed to determine the reliability of using handwriting analysis to identify different mental health conditions. Larger sample sizes and longitudinal studies tracking changes over time would help establish clearer patterns linking handwriting features to specific disorders. Overall, handwriting analysis holds potential as an additional tool to aid in assessment, but should not be used in isolation for diagnosis.

Criticisms and Limitations

Handwriting analysis has faced significant criticism and skepticism from the scientific community. Many studies have found little to no correlation between handwriting and personality traits or disorders ( Overall, graphology is not considered a scientifically valid method of diagnosis by mainstream psychology and psychiatry.

One of the main criticisms is that handwriting analysis is prone to subjective interpretations and lack of consistency between analysts. Different experts often draw contradictory conclusions from the same writing samples. There is no standardized system or “grammar” of graphology that is empirically validated (

Another major limitation is the lack of rigorous, large-scale studies confirming the reliability of graphology for assessing mental illness and personality disorders. Most existing research is based on small sample sizes or anecdotal evidence. More systematic, controlled experiments with thousands of participants over many years would be needed to scientifically validate the correlations suggested by graphologists.

Overall, while graphology can provide some useful insights when practiced responsibly, the skepticism about its validity as a diagnostic tool for psychology remains. Handwriting analysis should not be considered an equivalent replacement for structured clinical assessments and evaluations by licensed mental health professionals.

Best Practices and Professional Standards

Several professional associations provide guidelines on the ethical use of handwriting analysis. According to the American Handwriting Analysis Foundation’s Standards for members of the American Handwriting Analysis Foundation, analysts should obtain written consent before analyzing someone’s handwriting and should keep their analysis confidential. The AHAF Code of Ethics states that analysts should not diagnose medical or psychological conditions.

The Graphology Society of New York’s Code of Ethics for Graphologists emphasizes that analysts should have proper training and only practice within their areas of competence. The code prohibits making guarantees or claims about the benefits of graphology. Analysts must explain the limitations of handwriting analysis and not exaggerate its uses. The code advises obtaining written consent and maintaining confidentiality as well.

These ethical guidelines aim to ensure handwriting analysis is applied responsibly. Following best practices can help build credibility and prevent misuse of this technique.

Case Studies

Handwriting analysis has been used in many high-profile criminal cases to provide insights into the psychological profiles of suspects. One infamous example is the Zodiac Killer case, where experts examined the handwritten letters and codes sent by the unknown serial killer. They determined the writer was likely egocentric and seeking attention based on the elaborate, taunting messages (

More recently, handwriting analysis is being used in the homicide trial of Paul Bagenstose in Pennsylvania. Experts will compare writing samples from Bagenstose to threatening letters sent to the murder victims prior to their deaths. The analysis may provide evidence of his mental state and involvement in the crimes (

While handwriting analysis alone cannot diagnose specific disorders, it can offer clues about personality traits and tendencies that may correlate with certain conditions. When combined with other evidence, it has helped provide critical insights in major criminal investigations.

Future Research

There are several promising areas where additional research could further develop handwriting analysis for diagnosis (Gowda, 2015). First, studies with larger sample sizes are needed to increase statistical power and better validate correlations between specific handwriting features and psychological conditions. Longitudinal studies tracking handwriting changes over time could also reveal diagnostic insights. Additionally, research into automated handwriting analysis using machine learning has potential to increase objectivity and enable analysis of large handwriting sample sets (Faundez-Zanuy et al., 2020). However, human expertise would still be critical for interpretation. There are also opportunities to study connections between handedness, neurobiology, and handwriting (Gowda, 2015). Overall, handwriting analysis shows promise as an additional diagnostic aid, but requires rigorous research to firmly establish its validity, reliability, and clinical utility.


Through the past century, researchers have uncovered promising correlations between handwriting characteristics and psychological traits or disorders. While handwriting analysis shows potential for assessing and identifying mental health conditions, more research is still needed to further validate and improve these techniques.

Some studies reveal connections between specific handwriting features and conditions like depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and OCD. However, much of the existing research relies on small sample sizes or lacks sufficient empirical rigor. Larger, more rigorous studies are required to reproduce and confirm initial findings.

Professional handwriting analysts emphasize that handwriting should not be used in isolation to diagnose psychological disorders. Rather, it may serve as one piece of a comprehensive psychological assessment when interpreted by a trained professional alongside other diagnostic tools and methodologies.

In the future, technological advances like computerized handwriting analysis may help improve accuracy and objectivity. But human expertise still plays an essential role in contextualizing findings and integrating handwriting insights with a holistic understanding of the individual.

With further research and responsible application, handwriting analysis may assume a place in the clinician’s toolkit – not as a stand-alone assessment, but as a supplement to enrich psychological evaluations and uncover insights about mental health.


While handwriting analysis has been studied and applied in the field of psychology, this article contains speculative analysis and should not be considered scientifically validated. More research is needed to establish reliable connections between handwriting features and psychological disorders. However, handwriting analysis by a trained professional can provide personality insights when applied carefully and ethically. Readers are encouraged to consult psychological experts for assessments and treatment of mental health conditions.

This article was written for educational purposes to provide an overview of ideas that have been proposed by handwriting analysts over the years. It does not endorse using handwriting analysis as a diagnostic tool without further verification. As always, please conduct additional research and consult mental health professionals for any psychological assessments or therapies.

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