Borderline Personality Disorder May Impact Reactions to Stress

Stress is a normal part of life. On any given day, there are various stressors that cause cortisol to be elevated in the bloodstream. Examples of stressors include being called upon at a strategy meeting at work or a child spilling their soup at dinner. From a significant life challenge to more everyday stressors like these examples, stress raises the cortisol in the blood, followed by a recovery period, experienced in varying lengths.

For every individual, stress is experienced in different ways. As can be noted in anecdotal evidence, some people are more rattled by stressful situations than others. For some individuals, however, stress is a more significant event because of the presence of certain mental health issues.

In a recent study, Lori N. Scott of the Department of Psychology at Pennsylvania State University and colleagues examined the reaction to stress among a group of women diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. It has been theorized that women with borderline personality disorder do not respond to stress in ways comparable to others without borderline personality disorder. This may result in hyperactivity to stress and requiring a lengthy recovery period following a stressful experience.

For the study, the researchers recruited a group of women with borderline personality disorder, as well as participants who exhibited traits similar to those found in borderline personality disorder, and participants who did not exhibit any signs of borderline personality disorder.

Before introducing any stressful events, the researchers assessed cortisol levels and the positive or negative affect of the women.

The researchers found that the women who were diagnosed with borderline personality disorder exhibited a less severe response to stressors when compared to the other two groups of women.

This finding was contradictory to earlier studies, but Scott believes that there is good reason for the difference. The women diagnosed with borderline personality disorder were measured at baseline and were found to have higher levels of stress. This was based on measures of cortisol levels in the blood. The women with borderline personality disorder also had higher negative affect at the beginning of the study when compared with the other women enrolled in the test.

Because the stress levels were higher at baseline for women with borderline personality disorder, the reaction to stress was not as severe when compared with the other groups of women. In addition, the presence of negative affect can lessen the degree of any reaction and can reduce the hyperactive stress response.

The findings also revealed that recovery time was comparable between all of the groups of women. While those with borderline personality disorder had smaller increases in cortisol in response to stressors, they took similar lengths of time to return to normal. This was similar to the recovery of women who had steeper increases in stress responses.

The findings are published in a recent issue of the journal Personality Disorders: Theory, Research and Treatment.

On January 29th, 2013, posted in: Borderline Personality Disorder Research by Tags: