Objective: The purpose of this study was to characterize the course of 24 symptoms of borderline personality disorder in terms of time to remission.
Method: The borderline psychopathology of 362 patients with personality disorders, all recruited during inpatient stays, was assessed using two semistructured interviews of proven reliability. Of these, 290 patients met DSM-III-R criteria as well as Revised Diagnostic Interview for Borderlines criteria for borderline personality disorder, and 72 met DSM-III-R criteria for another axis II disorder. Over 85% of the patients were reinterviewed at five distinct 2-year follow-up waves by interviewers blind to all previously collected information.
Results: Among borderline patients, 12 of the 24 symptoms studied showed patterns of sharp decline over time and were reported at 10-year follow-up by less than 15% of the patients who reported them at baseline. The other 12 symptoms showed patterns of substantial but less dramatic decline over the follow-up period. Symptoms reflecting core areas of impulsivity (e.g., self-mutilation and suicide efforts) and active attempts to manage interpersonal difficulties (e.g., problems with demandingness/entitlement and serious treatment regressions) seemed to resolve the most quickly. In contrast, affective symptoms reflecting areas of chronic dysphoria (e.g., anger and loneliness/emptiness) and interpersonal symptoms reflecting abandonment and dependency issues (e.g., intolerance of aloneness and counterdependency problems) seemed to be the most stable.
Conclusions: The results suggest that borderline personality disorder may consist of both symptoms that are manifestations of acute illness and symptoms that represent more enduring aspects of the disorder.