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Psychiatr Clin North Am. 2000 Mar;23(1):103-22, vii-viii.

Attachment and borderline personality disorder. A theory and some evidence.

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  • 1Psychoanalysis Unit, UCL, United Kingdom. p.fonagy@ucl.ac.uk


An attachment theory approach to severe personality disorder is described. Evidence is presented that suggests that representations of attachment relationships and attachment behaviors of patients with this diagnosis are commonly disorganized in character. It is argued that the capacity to develop mental representations of mental states in self and other (reflective function) develops in the context of attachment relationships and that disorganization of attachment undermines this process. Such disorganization can be associated with trauma but may also be linked to other biological and psychosocial deficits. Many of the clinical characteristics of patients with borderline personality disorder may be seen as consequences of disordered self-organization and a limited rudimentary capacity to think about behavior in mental state terms. The relevance of this model for the practice of psychotherapy with this group of patients is discussed.

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