Shame and Implicit Self-Concept in Women With Borderline Personality Disorder

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Abstract

Objective

Shame is considered to be a central emotion in borderline personality disorder and to be related to self-injurious behavior, chronic suicidality, and anger-hostility. However, its level and impact on people with borderline personality disorder are largely unknown. The authors examined levels of self-reported shame, guilt, anxiety, and implicit shame-related self-concept in women with borderline personality disorder and assessed the association of shame with self-esteem, quality of life, and anger-hostility.

Method

Sixty women with borderline personality disorder completed self-report measures of shame- and guilt-proneness, state shame, anxiety, depression, self-esteem, quality of life, and clinical symptoms. Comparison groups consisted of 30 women with social phobia and 60 healthy women. Implicit shame-related self-concept (relative to anxiety) was assessed by the Implicit Association Test.

Results

Women with borderline personality disorder reported higher levels of shame- and guilt-proneness, state shame, and anxiety than women with social phobia and healthy comparison subjects. The implicit self-concept in women with borderline personality disorder was more shame-prone (relative to anxiety-prone) than in women in the comparison groups. After depression was controlled for, shame-proneness was negatively correlated with self-esteem and quality of life and positively correlated with anger-hostility.

Conclusions

Shame, an emotion that is prominent in women with borderline personality disorder, is associated with the implicit self-concept as well as with poorer quality of life and self-esteem and greater anger-hostility. Psychotherapeutic approaches to borderline personality disorder need to address explicit and implicit aspects of shame.

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