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J Pers Disord. 2005 Feb;19(1):19-29.

Psychosocial functioning of borderline patients and axis II comparison subjects followed prospectively for six years.

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  • 1Laboratory for the Study for Adult Development, McLean Hospital, Belmont, MA 02478, USA.


The purpose of this study was to determine the course of the psychosocial functioning of patients with borderline personality disorder (BPD) over 6 years of prospective follow-up. The psychosocial functioning of 290 patients meeting both DIB-R and DSM-III-R criteria for BPD and 72 patients meeting DSM-III-R criteria for another Axis II disorder (and neither criteria set for BPD) was assessed at baseline using a semistructured interview of demonstrated reliability. Over 94% of surviving patients were reinterviewed about their psychosocial functioning blind to all previously collected information at three distinct follow-up waves: 2-, 4-, and 6-year follow-up. The psychosocial functioning of borderline patients improved substantially over time, with the percentage meeting criteria for good overall psychosocial functioning increasing from 26% at baseline to 56% during the third wave of follow-up. Despite this improvement, borderline patients functioned significantly more poorly than Axis II comparison subjects, particularly in the area of vocational achievement. However, a more detailed examination revealed that borderline patients who had experienced a symptomatic remission during the course of the study functioned significantly better both socially and vocationally than never-remitted borderline patients. More specifically, they were significantly more likely to have a good relationship with a spouse/partner and at least one parent, good work/school performance, a sustained work/school history, a GAF score of 61 or higher (43% vs. 0% 6 years after their index admission), and to have good overall psychosocial functioning (66% vs. 27% at 6 year follow-up). Taken together, the results of this study suggest that psychosocial improvement is both common among borderline patients and strongly related to their symptomatic status.

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