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J Psychiatr Pract. 2000 Sep;6(5):247-55.

Modeling the relationship between affective lability, impulsivity, and suicidal behavior in patients with borderline personality disorder.

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University of Toronto, St. Michael's Hospital, Ontario.


This article reviews the concept of affective lability and suggests that new models are needed to characterize the relationship between affective states such as affective lability, impulsivity, and suicidal behavior. The association of affective lability, impulsivity, and suicidal behavior is most relevant to understanding the risk of suicide in individuals with borderline personality disorder. The relationship between affective lability and suicide might be explained as 1) a form of bipolarity, 2) a form of impulse dyscontrol, 3) a quantitative disorder of affect, or 4) an environmental reactivity. Our opinion of the relevant literature suggests that a quantitative disorder of affect accompanied by the inability to control these affects are the essential components leading to the risk of suicidal behavior. Characterizing the dyscontrol and high intensity of affect leads to a reconceptualization of depression in patients with borderline personality disorder and to a re-examination of the causal chain of events leading to suicidal behavior. The implications for clinical practice resulting from the proposed model are discussed.

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