Category: Personality Disorders
Interpersonal dysfunction is a core feature of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) characterized by patterns of unstable relationships, fear of abandonment, and difficulty being alone. Longitudinal studies suggest that interpersonal symptoms are particularly slow to remit. Importantly, studies also suggest that satisfying romantic relationships are significantly linked to improved daily functioning and long-term symptom remission in BPD, highlighting the importance of advancing our understanding of interpersonal processes in BPD in order to inform treatments aimed at helping individuals with BPD form stable, satisfying relationships.
Daily diary methodologies are well-suited for studying interpersonal processes in that they allow for the analysis of daily patterns in social behavior and cognition. However, as BPD has been linked to a number of social cognition biases (e.g. rejection sensitivity), it is difficult to determine to what extent a self-reported social interaction represents a biased perception or an actual event. The current study addresses this methodological challenge by collecting daily diary data from both participants and their partners, allowing for comparisons between self and partner-reports. Using a community sample of 74 heterosexual females who were cohabitating with a romantic partner, participants and partners completed baseline measures of BPD traits and daily diaries over 3 weeks assessing interpersonal events, relationship satisfaction, affect, and hostility.
Results suggest that higher BPD traits (BPD-T) are associated with lower baseline relationship satisfaction for both participants and partners and greater need for daily affection and support. For high BPD-T individuals, daily affection needs are positively linked to same-day alone time needs, suggesting a pattern of interpersonal ambivalence. High BPD-T is associated with higher self (outgoing) and partner (incoming) hostility and with a greater number of daily negative interpersonal events. Analysis of the discrepancy between self-reports and partner-reports suggests that individuals high in BPD-T are just as accurate as low-BPD-T individuals in their reports of daily social interactions, partner and self hostility.
Moderation analyses suggest that high BPD-T individuals receive more affective benefits from positive partner events and report less affective reactivity to negative events and partner hostility. This suggests that negative partner events and hostile interactions are less aversive and thus less “punishing” for individuals high in BPD-T. High BPD-T individuals receive less relational benefits from positive daily couple events and report less carry-over next-day relationship satisfaction gains after positive couple events. It may be that individuals higher in BPD-T are affectively responsive to positive couple events in the short term, but benefits do not translate into long-lasting relational satisfaction and stability. These findings may have practical treatment implications for individuals with BPD who may benefit from strategies to highlight and savor positive relationship experiences while acknowledging and considering the consequences of hostile, negative interactions.
Evelyn Meier– Student, American University, Washington, District of Columbia
Alexandra Long– M.A. Candidate, Psychology, American University, Washington, District Of Columbia
Jody Lanza-Gregory– American University, District Of Columbia
Alanna Covington– American University
Kathleen Gunthert– American University
Nathaniel Herr– Assistant Professor, American University, Washington, District Of Columbia
M.A. Candidate, Psychology
Washington, District Of Columbia