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Psychopharmacol Bull. 1991;27(1):23-30.

The depressed borderline: one disorder or two?

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, University of Pittsburgh, Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, PA 15213.


Depression in the borderline patient may present as a reactive mood state, an expression of character, or an independent comorbid affective disorder. The symptom picture is most often heterogeneous, "atypical," and chronic. Pharmacologic trials with tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) and monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) produce modest improvement on a variety of symptoms, though not always on depression. Medication effects on depressed mood in borderline personality disorder (BPD) are independent of comorbid diagnoses of major depression, atypical depression, or hysteroid dysphoria. Residual symptoms are the rule. A literature review, including studies of comorbidity, longitudinal followup, family history, and laboratory and pharmacotherapy studies, suggests that the borderline patient has both a core biologic affective dysregulation and a pathologic personality organization. The combination of constitutional and psychodynamic etiologies for borderline pathology requires consideration of both pharmacotherapy and psychotherapy in any comprehensive treatment.

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