People with borderline personality disorder find it difficult to empathise, a new study finds.
Dr Brian Haas, the study’s lead author, said:
“Our results showed that people with BPD traits had reduced activity in brain regions that support empathy.
This reduced activation may suggest that people with more BPD traits have a more difficult time understanding and/or predicting how others feel, at least compared to individuals with fewer BPD traits.”
The results come from 80 participants who were given a test of borderline personality disorder (BPD).
Like all personality traits, it exists on a continuum: you can be a little BPD or a lot.
Dr Haas explained:
“Oftentimes, borderline personality disorder is considered a binary phenomenon.
Either you have it or you don’t.
But for our study, we conceptualized and measured it in a more continuous way such that individuals can vary along a continuum of no traits to very many BPD traits.”
In the brain scanner, people carried out a task which required them to think about other people’s emotional states.
The researchers found that those with more traits of BPD had less activity in two areas of the brain linked to empathic processing.
Dr Joshua Miller, who co-authored the study, said:
“Borderline personality disorder is considered one of the most severe and troubling personality disorders.
BPD can make it difficult to have successful friendships and romantic relationships.
These findings could help explain why that is.”
The research was published in the journal Personality Disorders (Haas & Miller, 2015).
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
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