Dichotomous Thinking in Borderline Personality Disorder

Research paper by Lisa A. Napolitano, Dean McKay

Indexed on: 23 Mar '07Published on: 23 Mar '07Published in: Cognitive therapy and research


This study investigated dichotomous thinking (DT) in borderline personality disorder (BPD) to determine: (1) whether it is unidimensional in nature—all-good or all-bad, or multidimensional—both good and bad; and (2) whether it is pervasive or specific to BPD schemas. Replicating and extending a study by Veen and Arntz (2000, Cognitive Therapy and Research, 24, 23–45), the capacity of positive stimuli to elicit DT was also examined. Sixteen individuals with BPD, 16 individuals with other personality disorders (OPDs), and 16 nonclinical controls evaluated characters in film clips depicting themes either specific or nonspecific to BPD. DT was operationalized as the extremity of evaluations on visual analogue scales with bipolar trait descriptions. The BPD group’s evaluations reflected a mix of positive and negative attributes, suggesting that DT is multidimensional. DT in BPD was not confined to theoretically related stimuli, but occurred in response to nonspecific stimuli, including emotionally positive stimuli.