Heightened sensitivity to facial expressions of emotion in borderline personality disorder

Emotion. 2006 Nov;6(4):647-655. doi: 10.1037/1528-3542.6.4.647.


Individuals with borderline personality disorder (BPD) have been hypothesized to exhibit significant problems associated with emotional sensitivity. The current study examined emotional sensitivity (i.e., low threshold for recognition of emotional stimuli) in BPD by comparing 20 individuals with BPD and 20 normal controls on their accuracy in identifying emotional expressions. Results demonstrated that, as facial expressions morphed from neutral to maximum intensity, participants with BPD correctly identified facial affect at an earlier stage than did healthy controls. Participants with BPD were more sensitive than healthy controls in identifying emotional expressions in general, regardless of valence. These findings could not be explained by participants with BPD responding faster with more errors. Overall, results appear to support the contention that heightened emotional sensitivity may be a core feature of BPD.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Affect*
  • Anger
  • Attitude*
  • Borderline Personality Disorder / drug therapy
  • Borderline Personality Disorder / psychology*
  • Drug Therapy / statistics & numerical data
  • Expressed Emotion
  • Facial Expression*
  • Female
  • Happiness
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Psychotropic Drugs
  • Recognition, Psychology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires


  • Psychotropic Drugs