The terms temperament, character and personality have been used almost synonymously despite their different meanings. Hippocratic physicians conceptualized illness, including melancholia, in dimensional terms as an outgrowth of premorbid characteristics. In modern times, fullscale application of this dimensional concept to psychiatric disorders led Kraepelin, Schneider and Kretschmer to hypothesize that the 'endogenous psychoses are nothing other than marked accentuation of normal types of temperament'. Akiskal's 'soft-bipolarity' and 'affective temperaments' concepts and Cloninger's psychobiological model of temperament and character, which includes four temperament and three character dimensions, are examples of this dimensional approach from the last two decades. Hypotheses concerning the relationship between personality disorders and mood disorders have been described, but it is likely that a single unitary model would not adequately capture the complexity inherent in the relationship between mood and personality disorders. The DSM multiaxial approach to diagnosis encourages the clinician to distinguish state (Axis I) from trait (Axis II) features of mental disorders. Categorical systems like DSM have been criticised because of their inability to mention temperament, character and personality features. In this review, examples of dimensional approaches to mood disorders are given and discussed under the influence of temperament, character and personality disorders. For this purpose, literature from 1980 to 2004 has been reviewed through Pub/med, using the following key words.