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J Psychother Pract Res. 1994 Winter;3(1):25-36.

Emotional hypochondriasis, hyperbole, and the borderline patient.

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McLean Hospital, Belmont, Massachusetts, and the Consolidated Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts.


The authors define a new defense mechanism, emotional hypochondriasis, that is hypothesized to be central to borderline psychopathology. The behavioral manifestation of this defense-the hyperbolic stance of the borderline patient-is also defined and related to the complex phenomenology of borderline personality disorder. Borderline patients are seen as making an active attempt to maintain a tolerable, if tenuous, adaptation in the face of tremendous subjective emotional pain that has been shaped in large measure by traumatic childhood events that have never been validated. Twelve treatment implications and three expectable, if overlapping, stages of treatment stemming from the use of this defense and its behavioral sequelae are detailed.


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