Dissociative symptoms are positively related to stress in borderline personality disorder

Acta Psychiatr Scand. 2008 Feb;117(2):139-47. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0447.2007.01126.x. Epub 2007 Nov 19.


Objective: According to DSM-IV criteria, dissociative symptoms in borderline personality disorder (BPD) occur in response to stress. Empirical evidence is, however, lacking.

Method: Using ambulatory monitoring, we assessed dissociative symptoms and subjective ratings of stress every 60 min for 48 h on a palmtop computer in BPD-patients (n = 51), clinical controls (CC; major depression n = 25; panic disorder n = 26), and healthy controls (HC; n = 40). Data analyses were primarily based on hierarchical linear models.

Results: In all groups, states of increased stress were paralleled by increased scores of dissociation, thus confirming the hypothesized association between stress and dissociation. The increase in dissociation was more pronounced in BPD-patients when compared with CC and HC. Additionally, BPD-patients reported heightened dissociative experience compared with CC and HC, even after controlling for stress.

Conclusion: Our data suggest that BPD-patients might be prone to dissociation when experiencing stress and are characterized by a generally heightened level of dissociation.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Borderline Personality Disorder* / diagnosis
  • Borderline Personality Disorder* / epidemiology
  • Borderline Personality Disorder* / psychology
  • Demography
  • Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders
  • Dissociative Disorders* / diagnosis
  • Dissociative Disorders* / epidemiology
  • Dissociative Disorders* / etiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Prevalence
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Stress, Psychological / epidemiology*
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology*