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Emotional hyper-reactivity in borderline personality disorder is related to trauma and interpersonal themes

Psychiatry Research
DOI: 10.1016/j.psychres.2014.06.041
  • Borderline Personality Disorder
  • Emotional Reactivity
  • Picture Stimuli
  • Non-Suicidal Self-Injury
  • Dissociation
  • Posttraumatic Stress Disorder
  • Biology


Abstract Heightened emotional reactivity is one of the core features of borderline personality disorder (BPD). However, recent findings could not provide evidence for a general emotional hyper-reactivity in BPD. The present study examines the emotional responding to self-relevant pictures in dependency of the thematic category (e.g., trauma, interpersonal interaction) in patients with BPD. Therefore, women with BPD (n=31), women with major depression disorder (n=29) and female healthy controls (n=33) rated pictures allocated to thematically different categories (violence, sexual abuse, interaction, non-suicidal self-injury, and suicide) regarding self-relevance, arousal, valence and the urge of non-suicidal self-injury. Compared to both control groups, patients with BPD reported higher self-relevance regarding all categories, but significantly higher emotional ratings only for pictures showing sexual abuse and interpersonal themes. In addition, patients with BPD and comorbid posttraumatic stress disorder showed higher emotional reactivity in violence pictures. Our data provide clear evidence that patients with BPD show a specific emotional hyper-reactivity with respect to schema-related triggers like trauma and interpersonal situations. Future studies are needed to investigate physiological responses to these self-relevant themes in patients with BPD.

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