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Differential Susceptibility to the Environment and Borderline Personality Disorder

Rioux, Charlie, PhD; Séguin, Jean R., PhD; Paris, Joel, MD

doi: 10.1097/HRP.0000000000000182

Evolutionary models of psychopathology can shed light on gene-environment interactions. Differential susceptibility to the environment means that heritable traits can have positive or negative effects, depending on environmental context. Thus, traits that increase risk for mental disorders when the environment is negative can be adaptive when the environment is positive. This model can be applied to borderline personality disorder, with predictors such as emotional dysregulation and impulsivity seen as temperamental variations leading to negative effects in an unfavorable environment but to positive effects in a favorable environment. This model may also be useful in conceptualizing the mechanisms of effective therapy for borderline personality disorder.

From the Departments of Psychology (Dr. Rioux) and Psychiatry (Dr. Séguin), Université de Montréal; CHU Ste-Justine Research Centre (Drs. Rioux and Séguin); Department of Psychiatry, McGill University, and Department of Psychiatry, Jewish General Hospital, Montreal, Quebec (Dr. Paris).

Supported, in part, by the Fonds de la Recherche du Québec – Santé (Dr. Rioux).

Original manuscript received 6 March 2017; revised manuscript received 31 July 2017, accepted for publication subject to revision 5 September 2017; revised manuscript received 5 September 2017.

Correspondence: Charlie Rioux, CHU Ste-Justine Research Centre, Université de Montréal, 3175 Chemin de la Côte Sainte-Catherine, Montréal (Québec), Canada, H3T 1C5. Email:

© 2018 President and Fellows of Harvard College
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