Category: Personality Disorders

Symposium

Emotional Reactivity and Regulation Among Self-Injurers With and Without BPD

Saturday, November 18
10:15 AM - 11:45 AM
Location: Indigo Ballroom B, Level 2, Indigo Level

Keywords: Borderline Personality Disorder | Self-Injury | Emotion Regulation
Presentation Type: Symposium

Emotion dysregulation is central to both borderline personality disorder (BPD; Gratz et al., 2006) and nonsuicidal self-injury (NSSI; Gratz & Tull, 2010). Although NSSI is a hallmark symptom of BPD (Chapman et al., 2005), this behavior commonly occurs in people without BPD (Nock et al., 2006) and is associated with emotion dysregulation in the absence of BPD (In-Albon et al., 2013). There is also some evidence that adults with NSSI and BPD report greater emotion dysregulation than those with NSSI alone (Turner et al., 2015).  Notably, most research in this area has relied on self-report measures. Thus, this study extends extant research by using a multimodal assessment of emotional reactivity and regulation in response to standardized emotional stressors in self-injurers with and without BPD.


Participants were young adults (aged 18-35; 77% female) with (n=118) and without (n=137) recent, recurrent NSSI; 41% of those in the NSSI group also met criteria for threshold or subthreshold BPD. Following a habituation period, participants were randomized to receive one of two stressors (social rejection or frustration) or a neutral task Outcomes included self-reported negative affect, heart rate variability (HRV), skin conductance responses, and reported use of several emotion regulation strategies (Campbell-Sills et al., 2006).


Repeated measures ANOVAs revealed main effects of time, group, and condition for self-reported NA, which were qualified by a time x group x condition interaction, F=2.40, p=.03, driven by a larger response to the rejection stressor in NSSI+BPD participants. Although physiological indices each demonstrated effects of time, Fs=3.32-6.09, ps<.05, and time x condition, Fs=2.80-10.47, ps<.05, the only effect of group was a main effect for HRV, F=3.34, p=.04, with lower HRV in the NSSI+BPD vs. non-NSSI groups. There were main effects of condition and group for emotion regulation strategies, Fs=1.99-4.00, ps<.05, with lower use distraction reported by the NSSI+BPD group and lower use of suppression by the NSSI-only group.

Results help clarify the emotional dysfunction that characterizes NSSI among those with and without BPD.

Brianna J. Turner

Assistant Professor of Psychology
University of Victoria

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