An experimental investigation of emotional reactivity and delayed emotional recovery in borderline personality disorder: the role of shame.

Journal Article (Journal Article)

Despite the emphasis on emotional reactivity and delayed emotional recovery in prominent theoretical accounts of borderline personality disorder (BPD), research in this area remains limited. This study sought to extend extant research by examining emotional reactivity (and recovery following emotional arousal) to 2 laboratory stressors (one general, and the other involving negative evaluation) and exploring the impact of these stressors on subjective responding across the specific emotions of anxiety, irritability, hostility, and shame. We hypothesized that outpatients with BPD (compared to outpatients without a personality disorder; non-PD) would demonstrate heightened subjective emotional reactivity to both stressors, as well as a delayed return to baseline levels of emotional arousal. Results provide evidence for context- and emotion-specific reactivity in BPD. Specifically, BPD participants (compared to non-PD participants) evidenced heightened reactivity to the negative evaluation but not the general stressor. Furthermore, results provide support for shame-specific reactivity in BPD, with BPD participants (vs non-PD participants) evidencing a significantly different pattern of change in shame (but not in reported anxiety, irritability, or hostility) across the course of the study. Specifically, not only did BPD participants report higher levels of shame in response to the negative evaluation, their levels of shame remained elevated following this stressor (through the post-recovery period at the end of the study). Findings suggest the importance of continuing to examine emotional reactivity in BPD within specific contexts and across distinct emotions, rather than at the general trait level.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Gratz, KL; Rosenthal, MZ; Tull, MT; Lejuez, CW; Gunderson, JG

Published Date

  • 2010

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 51 / 3

Start / End Page

  • 275 - 285

PubMed ID

  • 20399337

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1532-8384

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1016/j.comppsych.2009.08.005


  • eng

Conference Location

  • United States