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Emotional Reactions to Standardized Stimuli in Women With Borderline Personality Disorder: Stronger Negative Affect, But No Differences in Reactivity

Jacob, Gitta A. PhD*; Hellstern, Kathrin MA*; Ower, Nicole MA*; Pillmann, Mona MA*; Scheel, Corinna N. MA*; Rüsch, Nicolas MD*; Lieb, Klaus MD*†

The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease: November 2009 - Volume 197 - Issue 11 - p 808-815
doi: 10.1097/NMD.0b013e3181bea44d
Original Article

Emotional dysregulation is hypothesized to be a core feature of borderline personality disorder (BPD). In this study, we investigated the course of emotions in response to standardized emotion inductions in BPD. A total of 26 female BPD patients, 28 matched healthy control subjects, and 15 female patients with major depressive disorder listened to short stories inducing an angry, joyful, or neutral mood. Before and immediately after each story as well as 3 and 6 minutes later, participants rated their current anger, joy, anxiety, shame, and sadness. All 3 groups showed the same increase and decrease of emotions. However, strong group differences in the general level of all negative emotions occurred. While sadness was stronger both in BPD and major depressive disorder as compared with healthy controls, all other negative emotions were significantly increased in BPD only independent of comorbid depression. Extreme negative affectivity may be a more appropriate description of BPD-related emotional problems than emotional hyperreactivity.

*Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, University Medical Center Freiburg, Freiburg, Germany; and †Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, University Medical Center Mainz, Mainz, Germany.

Send reprint requests to Gitta A. Jacob, PhD, Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, University Medical Center, Freiburg, Hauptstrasse 5, D 79104 Freiburg, Germany. E-mail:

© 2009 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.