Characterizing Positive and Negative Emotional Experiences in Young Adults With Borderline Personality Disorder Symptoms

Carol Chu, Sarah E. Victor, E. David Klonsky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Objectives: Some researchers suggest that borderline personality disorder (BPD) is characterized by elevated negative emotion; others argue that BPD involves both reduced positive and increased negative emotion. This study characterizes the emotional experiences of individuals with BPD symptoms in a combined university and community sample. Method: Participants (N = 150) completed a clinical interview assessing BPD symptoms and self-report measures of positive and negative emotion. A subset (n = 106) completed a measure of emotion daily for 2 weeks. Pearson's correlations and multilevel modeling were used to examine the cross-sectional and longitudinal relationships between BPD symptoms and emotions. Results: BPD symptoms were robustly related to increased negative emotion; this relationship remained after accounting for positive emotion. BPD symptoms were weakly related to decreased positive emotion; this relationship was no longer significant after accounting for negative emotion. BPD symptoms predicted higher levels of negative and not positive emotion over 14 days. These patterns held for subscales assessing intensity, frequency, and duration of negative and positive emotions. Conclusion: Findings suggest that individuals with BPD features are chiefly distinguished by elevated negative emotional experience.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)956-965
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Clinical Psychology
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2016


  • Borderline Personality Disorder
  • emotional dysfunction
  • negative emotion
  • positive emotion


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