The relationship between childhood trauma with major depressive disorder (MDD) and personality disorders is complex. We explored the differences in the subjective reporting of childhood trauma to determine whether there were differences between those with a diagnosis of personality disorder and those with MDD. Adult patients with depressive symptoms were recruited from three adult psychiatry inpatient wards. Sixty inpatients fulfilled the study criteria and were requested to complete the childhood trauma questionnaire (CTQ). At discharge, diagnosis was determined and was allocated mainly to two groups: those with MDD and those with personality disorder. Those with MDD, dysthymia and subsyndromal depressive symptoms were included in the Depression Broad Definition (DBD) group (secondary analysis). Significantly higher subjective reporting of childhood trauma was observed in the personality disorder group compared with MDD in three CTQ domains. Similarly, significantly higher reporting of childhood trauma was observed in all five CTQ domains in those with a personality disorder compared with the DBD group. In conclusion, the presence of personality disorder was associated with greater subjective reporting of childhood trauma compared with those with MDD, and further research is required to explore the differences in objective experience of childhood trauma between the diagnoses using objective measures.