Category: Personality Disorders


Emotional Reactivity and Regulation in BPD Versus Other Emotional Disorders

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

Keywords: Borderline Personality Disorder | Emotion | Emotion Regulation
Presentation Type: Symposium

Although emotional dysfunction is evident in various forms of psychopathology (Kring et al., 2008), it may be particularly central to borderline personality disorder (BPD; Skodol et al., 2005). Evidence indicates greater emotional reactivity (Gratz et al., 2006; cf. Jacob et al., 2009) and dispositional emotion regulation (ER) difficulties (Salsman & Linehan, 2012) in BPD. Yet, there is scant research on the ER strategies individuals with BPD spontaneously use. Given that co-occurring disorders are the norm in BPD (Zanarini et al., 2004), identifying patterns of emotional dysfunction specific to BPD is crucial step. This study aimed to examine subjective emotional reactivity and spontaneous ER in BPD vs. clinical (CCs) and healthy controls (HCs).

Participants (Mean age=25.9; 85% female; 49% Black, 39% White) were included if they met criteria for one of three groups:  BPD (n=18), past-year anxiety or mood disorder (CC; n=21), or no psychiatric disorder (HCs; n=24). In response to a stressful idiographic stressor (Gratz et al., 2011), participants reported their negative affect (NA) and use of specific ER strategies (self-criticism, attention allocation, reappraisal, acceptance, suppression, emotional avoidance).

In terms of NA, there were main effects of time, F=37.81, p<.01, and group, F=6.98, p<.01. Participants reported greater NA post-stressor, ps<.01, and both BPD and CC groups reported greater NA than the HC group, ps<.05. There were no group differences in ER strategy use, F=0.80, p>.65. Including emotional avoidance strategies in response to the stressor in the model revealed a time x group x avoidance interaction, F=4.97, p=.01; i.e., although HCs who reported low avoidance in response to the stressor reported lower post-stressor NA than both clinical groups, those who reported high avoidance during the stressor did not differ from the clinical groups in post-stressor NA, ps<.05.

These findings highlight the relevance of avoidance to later reactivity. 

Katherine L. Dixon-Gordon

Assistant Professor
University of Massachusetts Amherst


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Emotional Reactivity and Regulation in BPD Versus Other Emotional Disorders

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