Psychotic symptoms in adolescents with borderline personality disorder features


Psychotic symptoms have been found to be relatively common among adults with borderline personality disorder (BPD), and to be a marker of BPD severity, but are not recognised in daily clinical practice in these patients. This study is the first to examine the prevalence of psychotic symptoms in 15–18-year olds with BPD features. It was hypothesised that adolescents with full-threshold BPD would have significantly more psychotic symptoms than adolescents with sub-threshold BPD features, and that both these groups would have significantly more psychotic symptoms than adolescents with no BPD features. A total of 171 psychiatric outpatients, aged 15–18 years, were assessed using a structured interview for DSM-IV personality disorder and categorised into three groups: no BPD features (n = 48), sub-threshold BPD features (n = 80), and full-threshold BPD (n = 43). The groups were compared on measures of psychopathology and functioning (e.g. Youth Self Report, Symptom Check List-90-R, SOFAS). Adolescents with full-threshold BPD reported more psychotic symptoms than the sub-threshold BPD group (p < .001), and both these groups reported more psychotic symptoms than those with no BPD features (p < .001). Adolescents with full-threshold BPD reported more confusion (p < .01), paranoia (p < .001), visual hallucinations (p < .001) and strange thoughts (p < .01), than the other two groups. Psychotic symptoms predicted group membership, determined by BPD severity, after adjusting for other psychopathology and functional impairment (p < .01). Assessment of unusual perceptual experiences, paranoia or odd thoughts is highly clinically relevant in adolescents with BPD features, as these symptoms are associated with a more severe clinical presentation of BPD.

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Dr. Marialuisa Cavelti is supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation, and the Gottfried and Julia Bangerter-Rhyner-Foundation.


Funding was received for Dr Marialuisa Cavelti as stated in the acknowledgements.

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Correspondence to Andrew M. Chanen.

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All Authors 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.

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Thompson, K.N., Cavelti, M. & Chanen, A.M. Psychotic symptoms in adolescents with borderline personality disorder features. Eur Child Adolesc Psychiatry 28, 985–992 (2019).

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  • Adolescence
  • Borderline personality disorder
  • Psychosis
  • Hallucinations
  • Paranoia