Attentional bias to personally relevant words in borderline personality disorder is strongly related to comorbid posttraumatic stress disorder

J Pers Disord. 2009 Apr;23(2):141-55. doi: 10.1521/pedi.2009.23.2.141.


Current research indicates altered inhibitory functioning in borderline personality disorder (BPD). The emotional stroop task is a widely used method for investigating inhibition of interference. In the present study we used an individualized version of the emotional stroop task to investigate inhibitory functioning in BPD with respect not only to valence but also to personal relevance of the stimuli. Thirty-one BPD patients and 49 healthy controls performed the individual emotional stroop task that consisted of (1) words related to personal negative life events that were currently relevant (2) words related to personal negative life events that were not currently relevant, (3) negative words that were not personally relevant, and (4) neutral words. BPD patients showed greater interference only for words related to personal negative life events with current relevance. A comparison between BPD patients with and without posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) revealed reduced inhibitory functioning only in BPD patients with PTSD. Inhibition of interference in BPD patients seems not to be altered in general but is exclusively disturbed in those with comorbid PTSD when highly relevant personal factors are the focus of attention.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Attention*
  • Borderline Personality Disorder / complications*
  • Borderline Personality Disorder / psychology
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Emotions
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Life Change Events
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Reaction Time*
  • Self Concept*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / complications*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology
  • Young Adult