, Volume 36, Issue 4, pp 616-625
Date: 22 Apr 2014

A Preliminary Examination of the Role of Emotion Differentiation in the Relationship Between Borderline Personality and Urges for Maladaptive Behaviors

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Impulsive, maladaptive, and potentially self-damaging behaviors are a hallmark feature of borderline personality (BP) pathology. Difficulties with emotion regulation have been implicated in both BP pathology and maladaptive behaviors. One facet of emotion regulation that may be particularly important in the relation between BP pathology and urges for maladaptive behaviors is emotion differentiation. Over 1 day, 84 participants high (n = 34) and low (n = 50) in BP pathology responded to questions regarding state emotions and urges to engage in maladaptive behaviors using handheld computers, in addition to a measure of emotion-related difficulties controlling impulsive behaviors. Results revealed that individuals high in BP pathology reported greater emotion-related impulsivity as well as daily urges to engage in maladaptive behaviors. However, the association between BP group and both baseline emotion-related impulsivity and daily urges for maladaptive behaviors was strongest among individuals who had low levels of positive emotion differentiation. Conversely, negative emotion differentiation did not significantly moderate the relationships between BP group and either emotion-related difficulties controlling impulsive behaviors or state urges for maladaptive behaviors. Limitations to the present study include the reliance upon an analogue sample and the relatively brief monitoring period. Despite limitations, these results suggest that, among individuals with high BP pathology, the ability to differentiate between positive emotions may be a particularly important target in the reduction of maladaptive behaviors.