Document Type


Publication Date

April 2004

Journal or Book Title

Psychiatry Research






Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a highly prevalent and disabling condition linked to early stressors including traumatic abuse and abandonment. While much work has addressed traumatic events in childhood, little is known about the biological sequelae of BPD including how this disorder may be differentiated from other stressrelated disorders such as posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The purpose of this study was to investigate psychophysiological effects of different types of stressful reminders in BPD and in PTSD. Psychophysiological measures including heart rate, skin conductance responses, systolic and diastolic blood pressure in response to standardized neutral scripts, and personalized scripts of traumatic and abandonment situations were compared among subjects with BPD, PTSD and controls, all with a reported history of sexual andyor physical abuse before age 18. Significant script by diagnosis interactions are found for skin conductance and systolic blood pressure. No significant effects were found for diastolic blood pressure or heart rate. In the PTSD group the greatest systolic blood pressure responses were to traumatic scripts, whereas patients with BPD showed a tendency towards greater skin conductance responses to abandonment scripts. Our findings reveal only partially different psychophysiological responses to traumatic and abandonment scripts in PTSD and BPD. A divergence in pathophysiology in these two disorders is suggested that may be linked to childhood trauma. However, this interpretation must be tested in a larger population.