Emotion Processing in Borderline Personality Disorders

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The aim of this study was to examine the ways in which adults with borderline personality disorder (BPD) experience and manage their feelings. Responses of 30 subjects who met the criteria for BPD on the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-III-R were compared with 40 non-BPD controls on the following measures of emotion processing and affect regulation: 1) level of emotional awareness, 2) capacity to coordinate mixed valence feelings, 3) accuracy at identifying facial expressions of emotion, and 4) intensity of response to negative emotions. The results showed significant differences between the two groups on all measures. The borderlines showed significantly lower levels of emotional awareness, less capacity to coordinate mixed valence feelings, lower accuracy at recognizing facial expressions of emotion, and more intense responses to negative emotions than the nonborderline controls. The findings corroborate clinical observations of borderline patients' difficulties in regulating emotions. The implications of the results for the therapeutic management of BPD patients are discussed.

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