Impulsivity, Rejection Sensitivity, and Reactions to Stressors in Borderline Personality Disorder


This research investigated baseline impulsivity, rejection sensitivity, and reactions to stressors in individuals with borderline personality disorder compared to healthy individuals and those with avoidant personality disorder . The borderline group showed greater impulsivity than the avoidant and healthy groups both in a delay-discounting task with real monetary rewards and in self-reported reactions to stressors; moreover, these findings could not be explained by co-occurring substance use disorders. Distress reactions to stressors were equally elevated in both personality disorder groups (relative to the healthy group). The borderline and avoidant groups also reported more maladaptive reactions to a stressor of an interpersonal versus non-interpersonal nature, whereas the healthy group did not. Finally, self-reported impulsive reactions to stressors were associated with baseline impulsivity in the delay-discounting task, and greater self-reported reactivity to interpersonal than non-interpersonal stressors was associated with rejection sensitivity. This research highlights distinct vulnerabilities contributing to impulsive behavior in borderline personality disorder.

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This research was supported by National Institutes of Mental Health Grant R01 MH081948 to authors Downey, Rafaeli, and Berenson.

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Correspondence to Kathy R. Berenson.

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Kathy R. Berenson, Wesley Ellen Gregory, Erin Glaser, Aliza Romirowsky, Eshkol Rafaeli, Xiao Yang, and Geraldine Downey declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. Written informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in this study.

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Berenson, K.R., Gregory, W.E., Glaser, E. et al. Impulsivity, Rejection Sensitivity, and Reactions to Stressors in Borderline Personality Disorder. Cogn Ther Res 40, 510–521 (2016) doi:10.1007/s10608-015-9752-y

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  • Borderline personality disorder
  • Avoidant personality disorder
  • Impulsivity
  • Delay discounting
  • Rejection sensitivity