Emotion suppression in borderline personality disorder: an experience sampling study

J Pers Disord. 2009 Feb;23(1):29-47. doi: 10.1521/pedi.2009.23.1.29.


This study examined the effects of suppressing emotions in the natural environment among individuals who were high (high-BPD; n = 30) and low (low-BPD; n = 39) in borderline personality disorder (BPD) features. Participants responded to prompts from a personal data assistant eight times per day over a four-day period. The first day was a baseline day, followed by instructions to observe emotions on the second day, suppress emotions on the third day, and observe emotions on the fourth day. Findings ran counter to the notion that emotion suppression is a maladaptive emotion regulation strategy for individuals with BPD features, and also contradict some laboratory research in this area. Specifically, high-BPD participants reported higher positive emotions on the suppress day compared with the observe days, and lower urges to engage in impulsive behavior on the suppress day compared with both the baseline and observe days. On the contrary, for low-BPD participants, negative emotions were higher on the suppress day than they were on the observe or baseline days. Overall, findings indicate the need to further examine when and how emotion suppression leads to positive versus negative effects for persons with BPD features.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anxiety
  • Borderline Personality Disorder / psychology*
  • Fear
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Impulsive Behavior / psychology*
  • Inhibition, Psychological*
  • Internal-External Control*
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Male
  • Sampling Studies
  • Self Concept*
  • Shame
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult