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Am J Psychiatry. 2002 May;159(5):784-8.

Characterizing affective instability in borderline personality disorder.

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Department of Psychiatry, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, NY, USA.



This study sought to understand affective instability among patients with borderline personality disorder by examining the degree of instability in six affective domains. The authors also examined the subjective intensity with which moods are experienced and the association between instability and intensity of affect.


In a group of 152 patients with personality disorders, subjective affective intensity and six dimensions of affective instability were measured. The mean scores for lability and intensity for each affective domain for patients with borderline personality disorder were compared with those of patients with other personality disorders through analyses that controlled for other axis I affective disorders, age, and sex.


Greater lability in terms of anger and anxiety and oscillation between depression and anxiety, but not in terms of oscillation between depression and elation, was associated with borderline personality disorder. Contrary to expectation, the experience of an increase in subjective affective intensity was not more prominent in patients with borderline personality disorder than in those with other personality disorders.


By applying a finer-grained perspective on affective instability than those of previous personality disorder studies, this study points to patterns of affective experience characteristic of patients with borderline personality disorder.

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