According to Linehan's biosocial model, the core characteristic of borderline personality disorder (BPD) is emotional dysregulation. In the present study, we investigated two components of this model: baseline emotional intensity and emotional reactivity. A total of 60 women, 30 with BPD diagnosis and 30 age and sex-matched healthy subjects (HCs), participated in two experiments. In the first experiment, we evaluated emotional responses to six films designed to elicit discrete emotions (anger, fear, sadness, disgust, amusement and neutral). The second experiment evaluated emotional reactions to three emotion-eliciting films containing BPD-specific content (sexual abuse, emotional dependence and abandonment/separation). Skin conductance level, heart rate, and subjective emotional response were recorded for each film. Although self-reported data indicated that negative emotions at baseline were stronger in the BPD group, physiological measures showed no differences between the groups. Physiological results should be interpreted with caution since most BPD participants were under pharmacological treatment. BPD subjects presented no subjective heightened reactivity to most of the discrete emotion-eliciting films. Subjective responses to amusement and "BPD-specific content" films revealed significant between-group differences. These findings suggest that the main characteristic of BPD might be negative emotional intensity rather than heightened emotional reactivity. © 2012 Elsevier Ireland Ltd.
- Discrete emotions
- Emotional dysregulation