Borderline personality disorder and emotion information processing

Intili, Rita (2012). Borderline personality disorder and emotion information processing. University of Birmingham. Clin.Psy.D.


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Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is a disabling chronic clinical condition that is not adequately managed by mental health services generally, and therefore associated with substantial social costs. BPD is not easily identifiable or well understood. Clinicians describe this client group as one of the most difficult and testing to treat. Hence, developing more reliable and effective ways of identifying and treating BPD is essential.

Interpersonal difficulties figure prominently in BPD. Theoreticians have questioned whether vulnerability to troubled interpersonal relationships in BPD may be related to biases in processing emotionally salient information. A review of the literature suggests that BPD individuals preferentially attend to emotionally threatening information, and they appraise others as rejecting when the emotional information is ambiguous.

Research was carried out to investigate whether BPD individuals misread other’s emotional facial expressions as malevolent, and whether this is exacerbated by heightened emotional arousal. The predictions of this study were related to the notion that emotion dysregulation is at the core of BPD and tie in with models of BPD that link emotion dysregulation to a hypersensitivity to interpersonal cues signalling threat of rejection and an expectation of hostility from others. The BPD participants in this study were able to identify facial emotional expressions but they displayed a specific response bias towards disgust when the information was ambiguous. The mood condition did not reveal effects. These findings may be interpreted as a negativity bias toward social rejection and are therefore compatible with theories of BPD. Implications for assessment and treatment are discussed.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Clin.Psy.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Clin.Psy.D.
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Life & Environmental Sciences
School or Department: School of Psychology
Funders: None/not applicable
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology


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