Emotion-related cognitive processes in borderline personality disorder: a review of the empirical literature

Clin Psychol Rev. 2012 Jul;32(5):359-69. doi: 10.1016/j.cpr.2012.03.002. Epub 2012 Mar 27.


Maladaptive cognitive processes, including selective attention and memory, distorted beliefs and interpretations, and thinking processes such as rumination and thought suppression, are strongly associated with many emotional disorders. This paper reviews research that extends these findings to the emotional dysfunction characteristic of borderline personality disorder (BPD). Results suggest that people with BPD habitually attend to negative stimuli, have disproportionate access to negative memories, endorse a range of BPD-consistent negative beliefs about themselves, the world, and other people, and make negatively biased interpretations and evaluations of neutral or ambiguous stimuli. They also engage in thought suppression and rumination and these tendencies are significantly associated with the severity of their BPD symptoms. It remains unclear whether maladaptive cognitive processes play a causal role in the development and maintenance of BPD or are correlates or consequences of having the disorder. Continued study of emotion-related cognitive processing in BPD may improve understanding and treatment of this severe disorder.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Attention*
  • Borderline Personality Disorder / physiopathology
  • Borderline Personality Disorder / psychology*
  • Cognition
  • Emotions*
  • Humans
  • Memory*