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, 41 (5), 1041-50

Borderline Personality Disorder Co-Morbidity: Relationship to the Internalizing-Externalizing Structure of Common Mental Disorders


Borderline Personality Disorder Co-Morbidity: Relationship to the Internalizing-Externalizing Structure of Common Mental Disorders

N R Eaton et al. Psychol Med.


Background: Borderline personality disorder (BPD) shows high levels of co-morbidity with an array of psychiatric disorders. The meaning and causes of this co-morbidity are not fully understood. Our objective was to investigate and clarify the complex co-morbidity of BPD by integrating it into the structure of common mental disorders.

Method: We conducted exploratory and confirmatory factor analyses on diagnostic interview data from a representative US population-based sample of 34 653 civilian, non-institutionalized individuals aged ≥18 years. We modeled the structure of lifetime DSM-IV diagnoses of BPD and antisocial personality disorder (ASPD), major depressive disorder, dysthymic disorder, panic disorder with agoraphobia, social phobia, specific phobia, generalized anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, alcohol dependence, nicotine dependence, marijuana dependence, and any other drug dependence.

Results: In both women and men, the internalizing-externalizing structure of common mental disorders captured the co-morbidity among all disorders including BPD. Although BPD was unidimensional in terms of its symptoms, BPD as a disorder showed associations with both the distress subfactor of the internalizing dimension and the externalizing dimension.

Conclusions: The complex patterns of co-morbidity observed with BPD represent connections to other disorders at the level of latent internalizing and externalizing dimensions. BPD is meaningfully connected with liabilities shared with common mental disorders, and these liability dimensions provide a beneficial focus for understanding the co-morbidity, etiology and treatment of BPD.


Figure 1
Figure 1
The best fitting model in women and men. Note. Values are standardized factor loadings (all significant p < .001). Bolded values before slash are for women; values after slash are for men. Panic: panic disorder with agoraphobia. Social: social phobia. Spec: specific phobia. MDD: major depressive disorder. Dysth: dysthymic disorder. GAD: generalized anxiety disorder. PTSD: post-traumatic stress disorder. BPD: borderline PD. ASPD: antisocial PD. Nic: nicotine dependence. Alc: alcohol dependence. Marij: marijuana dependence. Drug: other drug dependence. Arrows without numbers indicate unique variances, including error.

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