BACKGROUND: Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is characterized by severe difficulties in interpersonal relationships and emotional functioning. Theories of BPD suggest that individuals with BPD have heightened emotional sensitivity, increased stress reactivity, and problems in making sense of intentions of others. In this study we investigated stress reactivity in BPD and its interference with social cognition, and tested whether any differences are specific for BPD or are inherent to personality disorders in general. METHODS: We investigated 22 patients with BPD, 23 patients with Cluster C personality disorder (CPD), and 24 nonpatients on facial emotion recognition and social evaluation before and after stress induction based on the Trier Social Stress Test (TSST). RESULTS: The results show that stress increased subjective negative emotions in the BPD group to a larger extent than in the other groups, whereas physiological responses were attenuated. Importantly stress induction increased negative evaluations about others, but surprisingly to a similar extent in the BPD and CPD groups as in the nonpatient control group. In addition facial emotion recognition performance was higher after than before stress, but no significant group differences were observed. CONCLUSION: These results suggest that heightened psychological reactivity in BPD co-occurs with attenuated physiological responses to psychosocial stress and that stress affects social cognition to a similar extent in BPD as in others.
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- Borderline personality disorder, Trier Social Stress Test (TSST), Cortisol, Social cognition, Contextual neuropsychology, Cluster C personality disorder, PITUITARY-ADRENAL AXIS, EMOTION RECOGNITION, CHILDHOOD MALTREATMENT, DICHOTOMOUS THINKING, FACIAL EXPRESSIONS, CORTISOL RESPONSES, MOOD STATES, WOMEN, REACTIVITY, PROFILE