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J Pers Disord. 2005 Oct;19(5):505-23.

The McLean Study of Adult Development (MSAD): overview and implications of the first six years of prospective follow-up.

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Laboratory for the Study of Adult Development, McLean Hospital, and the Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, USA.


The McLean Study of Adult Development (MSAD) began 12 years ago. It is the first NIMH-funded prospective study of the course and outcome of borderline personality disorder (BPD). After careful analysis of the first six years of follow-up, 5 main findings concerning the symptomatic and psychosocial course of BPD have emerged from this study. The first finding is that remissions are far more common than previously recognized (about 74%). The second is that these remissions are quite stable and thus, recurrences are quite rare (about 6%). The third finding is that completed suicides are far more rare than anticipated (about 4% vs. 10%). The fourth finding is that a "complex" model of borderline psychopathology best describes BPD. In this model, some symptoms resolve relatively quickly, are the best markers for the disorder, and are often the immediate reason for needing costly forms of treatment, such as psychiatric hospitalizations. We termed these symptoms (e.g., self-mutilation, help-seeking suicide threats or attempts) acute symptoms. Other symptoms resolve more slowly, are not specific to BPD, and are closely associated with ongoing psychosocial impairment. We termed such symptoms (e.g., chronic feelings of intense anger, profound abandonment concerns) temperamental symptoms. Fifth, it was also found that borderline patients were improving psychosocially over time, particularly remitted borderline patients; psychosocial functioning of remitted patients continued to improve as time progressed, suggesting that they were somewhat belatedly achieving the milestones of young adulthood and not simply returning to a prodromal level of functioning. Taken together, these results suggest that the prognosis for BPD is better than previously recognized.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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