Borderline personality disorder, metacognition and psychotherapy

Ludovica D'Abate, Giuseppe Delvecchio, Valentina Ciappolino, Adele Ferro, Paolo Brambilla

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Background: Deficits in the ability to think about own mental states and that of others (mindreading) are seen as key aspects of borderline personality disorder (BPD), which could sustain BPD symptoms. Interestingly, some studies showed that in BPD patients metacognition is selectively compromised and could improve during treatments. However, empirical findings are inconsistent, and it is debatable whether BPD presents a specific profile of mindreading impairments that could improve during treatments. Methods: We performed a bibliographic research on PubMed, Google Scholar and Scopus of all studies investigating a) the metacognitive functioning in the BPD patients and b) the link between psychotherapy, metacognition improvement and BPD symptomatology. A total of 11 studies met our inclusion criteria and considered metacognition following the definition proposed by Semerari. Results: Overall, the results suggest that BPD metacognitive profile mainly includes difficulties in metacognitive sub-domains of integration, differentiation and mastery. The type of treatment most appropriate to improve metacognitive abilities and reduce symptoms seemed to be a long term treatment and specifically focused on metacognitive deficits. Limitations: Lack of a control group, small sample sizes and heterogeneity in terms of gender, age, comorbidities and other ongoing treatments are the key limits of the original studies reviewed. Conclusions: The results sustain the hypothesis of a selective and specific metacognitive impairment in BPD patients that could improve during treatments together with their symptomatology. However, more studies are needed to further investigate the role of metacognition in the effectiveness of treatments.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1095-1101
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
Publication statusPublished - Nov 1 2020


  • Borderline personality disorder
  • Clinical symptomatology
  • Metacognition
  • Psychotherapy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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