ISSN: 1230-2813
Advances in Psychiatry and Neurology/Postępy Psychiatrii i Neurologii
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vol. 27
Review article

Components of emotion dysregulation in borderline personality disorder: A review of recent research

Piotr Grzegorzewski
Katarzyna Kucharska

Adv Psychiatry Neurol 2018; 27 (2): 120-134
Online publish date: 2018/07/06
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The aim of this paper is a synthetic presentation of the latest research results on the components of emotion dysregulation in borderline personality disorder (BPD).

Emotion dysregulation constitutes one of the most serious problems in BPD and manifests itself in numerous aspects of emotional functioning. Studies on BPD emotion dysregulation concern its various components, distinguished in different theoretical models. Based on a review of the empirical literature, we differentiate three main components of emotion dysregulation in BPD: (1) emotional sensitivity, (2) abnormal course of emotions in terms of: (a) emotional reactivity, (b) slow return to emotional baseline, (c) intensity of negative emotions, (d) lability of negative emotions, and (3) maladaptive aspects of applying emotion regulation strategies (described on the examples of the selected strategies: cognitive, interpersonal, and self-injury).

Although a large number of issues pertaining to emotion dysregulation in BPD require further explanation, researchers agree that this phenomenon is characterized by a complex clinical presentation. A review of the recent studies on emotional sensitivity in BPD indicates mixed results when it comes to sensitivity to a certain kind of stimuli (i.e., facial expressions), but suggests consistently greater sensitivity in response to another (i.e., emotional scenes). The findings on reactivity and the speed of return to emotional baseline point to the significance of emotion-inducing stimuli in shaping these processes. Research results on the use of cognitive and interpersonal strategies of emotion regulation and on the predictors of self-injury are, however, not consistent. Future studies should therefore focus on identifying factors that might be affecting the differences in the outcomes of research on various components of emotion dysregulation. In order to be able to better adjust psychotherapy to the actual needs of patients with BPD, we suggest a need for combining two approaches in future research on emotion dysregulation in this disorder: within-group individual differences (considering differences within the group of patients with BPD) and a specific-transdiagnostic approach (directed at identifying differences between BPD and other mental disorders as well as their shared characteristics).


borderline personality disorder, emotion regulation, emotion dysregulation, emotion dynamics, emotional sensitivity

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