[Borderline personality disorder and attentional biases. Theoretical models and empirical findings].

Research paper by I A IA Ceumern-Lindenstjerna, R R Brunner, P P Parzer, P P Fiedler, F F Resch

Indexed on: 06 Jun '02Published on: 06 Jun '02Published in: Fortschritte der Neurologie-Psychiatrie


The purpose of this review is to analyse nature, degree and consequences of attentional biases in patients with borderline personality disorder based on existing literature. The clinical importance of these phenomena in patients with borderline personality disorder is strengthened and the link between theoretical models, empirical findings and therapeutic interventions is elaborated. This link between selective attention and borderline personality disorder is demonstrated on the basis of studies, which indicate a context between borderline pathology, affective disorders, anxiety disorders, and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorders and also give evidence to neuropsychological deficits in patients with borderline personality disorder. The present article comparatively describes three theoretical models of borderline personality disorder and their possible links to attentional biases. The dialectical behavior approach postulates a pronounced attentional narrowing to emotional stimuli in connection with deficits regarding affect regulation. The cognitive approach assumes that rigid dysfunctional schemata initiate a cognitive-emotional circuit, which leads to a reinforcement of the symptomatology as a result of a biased perception and memory. Additionally the present article specifies the trauma approach which emphasizes the relation between borderline pathology and childhood trauma with recourse to theories of attentional biases in patients with traumatic experiences. Preliminary empiricial findings suggest that patients with borderline personality disorder demonstrate a general attentional bias for any emotional negative stimuli and not a selective attentional bias to borderline-specific stimuli. Further studies should clarify, whether therapeutical interventions with the aim to influence attentional processes represent a useful complement to established therapies in patients with borderline personality disorder.