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J Nerv Ment Dis. 1995 Jun;183(6):370-6.

Changes in self-destructiveness of borderline patients in psychotherapy. A prospective follow-up.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Berkshire Medical Center, Pittsfield, Massachusetts 01201, USA.


Thirty-seven female inpatients with borderline personality disorder were followed prospectively for up to 5 years to assess changes in two forms of self-destructiveness: suicidal behavior/ideation, and self-harm behavior/ideation. It was found that suicidal behavior declined significantly at 1-, 2-, 3-, 4-, and 5-year follow-up; self-harm behavior showed trends but no significant decline over 5 years. Ideation (both suicidal ideation and self-harm) did not decline notably. Three alternate courses of self-harm behavior are identified: "fluctuating," "consistently low," and "steadily declining." The majority of patients fell in the fluctuating category. The fluctuating group showed higher baseline dysphoria than did the consistently low group, while the latter reported higher baseline drug use. Intercorrelations showed that self-harm behavior and suicidal behavior were not associated, nor were suicidal behavior and suicidal ideation. Clinical and research implications are discussed.

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