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J Abnorm Psychol. 2010 May;119(2):433-9. doi: 10.1037/a0018696.

Variability and predictors of negative mood intensity in patients with borderline personality disorder and recurrent suicidal behavior: multilevel analyses applied to experience sampling methodology.

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  • 1Centre for Research on Inner City Health, Keenan Research Centre, LiKaShing Knowledge Institute, St. Michael's Hospital, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.


Variability in mood swings is a characteristic of borderline personality disorder (BPD) and is associated with suicidal behavior. This study investigated patterns of mood variability and whether such patterns could be predicted from demographic and suicide-related psychological risk factors. Eighty-two adults with BPD and histories of recurrent suicidal behavior were recruited from 3 outpatient psychiatric programs in Canada. Experience sampling methodology (ESM) was used to assess negative mood intensity ratings on a visual analogue scale, 6 random times daily, for 21 days. Three-level models estimated variability between times (52.8%), days (22.2%), and patients (25.1%) and supported a quadratic pattern of daily mood variability. Depression scores predicted variability between patients' initial rating of the day. Average daily mood patterns depended on levels of hopelessness, suicide ideation, and sexual abuse history. Patients reporting moderate to severe sexual abuse and elevated suicide ideation were characterized by worsening moods from early morning up through evening, with little or no relief; patients reporting mild sexual abuse and low suicide ideation reported improved mood throughout the day. These patterns, if replicated in larger ESM studies, may potentially assist the clinician in determining which patients require close monitoring.

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