Objective: Deliberate self-harm (DSH), general hospital admission and psychiatric hospital admission are common in women meeting criteria for borderline personality disorder (BPD). Dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT) has been reported to be effective in reducing DSH and hospitalization.
Method: A randomized controlled trial of 73 female subjects meeting criteria for BPD was carried out with intention-to-treat analyses and per-protocol analyses. The intervention was DBT and the control condition was treatment as usual plus waiting list for DBT (TAU+WL), with outcomes measured after 6 months. Primary outcomes were differences in proportions and event rates of: any DSH; general hospital admission for DSH and any psychiatric admission; and mean difference in length of stay for any hospitalization. Secondary outcomes were disability and quality of life measures.
Results: Both groups showed a reduction in DSH and hospitalizations, but there were no significant differences in DSH, hospital admissions or length of stay in hospital between groups. Disability (days spent in bed) and quality of life (Physical, Psychological and Environmental domains) were significantly improved for the DBT group.
Conclusion: DBT produced non-significant reductions in DSH and hospitalization when compared to the TAU+WL control, due in part to the lower than expected rates of hospitalization in the control condition. Nevertheless, DBT showed significant benefits for the secondary outcomes of improved disability and quality of life scores, a clinically useful result that is also in keeping with the theoretical constructs of the benefits of DBT.