Emotional reactivity in borderline personality disorder: Theoretical considerations based on a meta-analytic review of laboratory studies

Roberta Bortolla, Marco Cavicchioli, Andrea Fossati, Cesare Maffei

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Emotional hyperreactivity (Linehan, 1993) is the most investigated construct in borderline personality disorder (BPD). However, experimental studies revealed mixed results on the topic. Our main objective is to comprehensively summarize the results on emotional reactivity in BPD compared to healthy controls (HCs), using a meta-analytic approach, considering different emotional response systems (physiology, behavior, self-report). We included 31 experimental studies (1,675 subjects). We observed null to small effect sizes for several physiological and behavioral outcomes. Conversely, BPD subjects revealed a moderate to large difference in valence attributed to emotional stimuli and a small difference in self-reported arousal. Significant differences in pooled effect sizes were found between self-report and physiological outcomes. Several sources of heterogeneity were explored. In general, the hyperreactivity hypothesis was not supported. Additional dysfunctional processes should be taken into consideration to understand BPD emotional responsiveness.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)64-87
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Personality Disorders
Volume34
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2020

Keywords

  • Borderline personality disorder
  • Emotional reactivity
  • Linehan’s model

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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