Comparable emotional dynamics in women with ADHD and borderline personality disorder

Comparable emotional dynamics in women with ADHD and borderline personality disorder

Moukhtarian TR, Reinhard I, Moran P, Ryckaert C, Skirrow C, Ebner-Priemer U, Asherson P.

Borderline Personal Disord Emot Dysregul. 2021 Feb 12;8(1):6.
doi: 10.1186/s40479-021-00144-y.

Commentary* by Dr. Margaret Weiss: Emotional dysregulation as a concept is trans-diagnostic. We have yet to determine if particular aspects of emotional dysregulation may be diagnosis specific.



Background: Emotional dysregulation (ED) is a core diagnostic symptom in borderline personality disorder (BPD) and an associated feature of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). We aimed to investigate differences in dynamical indices of ED in daily life in ADHD and BPD.

Methods: We used experience sampling method (ESM) and multilevel modelling to assess momentary changes in reports of affective symptoms, and retrospective questionnaire measures of ED in a sample of 98 adult females with ADHD, BPD, comorbid ADHD+BPD and healthy controls.

Results: We found marked differences between the clinical groups and healthy controls. However, the ESM assessments did not show differences in the intensity of feeling angry and irritable, and the instability of feeling sad, irritable and angry, findings paralleled by data from retrospective questionnaires. The heightened intensity in negative emotions in the clinical groups compared to controls was only partially explained by bad events at the time of reporting negative emotions, suggesting both reactive and endogenous influences on ED in both ADHD and BPD.

Conclusions: This study supports the view that ED is a valuable trans-diagnostic aspect of psychopathology in both ADHD and BPD, with similar levels of intensity and instability. These findings suggest that the presence or severity of ED should not be used in clinical practice to distinguish between the two disorders.


 * Abstracts are selected for their clinical relevance by Dr. Margaret Weiss, Director of Clinical Research, Child Psychiatry, Cambridge Health Alliance, Harvard University. Her commentary reflects her own opinion.  It is not approved or necessarily representative of the CADDRA board.


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