Multimodal assessment of emotional reactivity and regulation in response to social rejection among self-harming adults with and without borderline personality disorder

Personal Disord. 2019 Sep;10(5):395-405. doi: 10.1037/per0000334. Epub 2019 Feb 28.


Theories of borderline personality disorder (BPD) highlight the central role of emotional dysfunction in this disorder, with a particular emphasis on emotional reactivity and emotion regulation (ER) difficulties. However, research on emotion-related difficulties in BPD has produced mixed results, often related to the particular indices of emotional responding used in the studies. As such, the specific nature of emotional dysfunction in BPD, as well as the extent to which subjective emotion-related difficulties map onto corresponding physiological deficits, remains unclear. This study examined both subjective and physiological indices of emotional reactivity and ER difficulties in response to a social rejection emotion induction (relative to a neutral emotion induction) across three groups of participants: self-harming young adults with BPD, self-harming young adults without BPD, and clinical controls with no self-harm history or BPD. Consistent with the hypotheses, results revealed a lack of convergence between subjective and physiological indices of emotional reactivity and ER difficulties among participants with BPD. Whereas participants with BPD reported both greater emotional reactivity and greater ER difficulties in response to the negative emotion induction than participants without self-harm or BPD, there were no significant differences in physiological indices of emotional reactivity or ER between participants with BPD and either of the control groups. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved).

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Affective Symptoms / physiopathology*
  • Borderline Personality Disorder / epidemiology
  • Borderline Personality Disorder / physiopathology*
  • Comorbidity
  • Emotional Regulation / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Psychological Distance*
  • Self-Injurious Behavior / epidemiology
  • Self-Injurious Behavior / physiopathology*
  • Young Adult

Grant support