Hypervigilance in patients with borderline personality disorder: specificity, automaticity, and predictors.

Research paper by Simkje S Sieswerda, Arnoud A Arntz, Ingrid I Mertens, Stefaan S Vertommen

Indexed on: 19 Oct '06Published on: 19 Oct '06Published in: Behaviour Research and Therapy


According to cognitive theory, an important factor in borderline personality disorder (BPD) is hypervigilance. The aim of the present study was to test whether BPD patients show schema-related biases, and to explore relations with childhood trauma, schemas, and BPD symptoms. Sixteen BPD patients were compared with 18 patients with a cluster C personality disorder, 16 patients with an axis I disorder, and 16 normal controls. An emotional Stroop task was applied with schema-related and unrelated, negative and positive, supra- and subliminal person-related stimuli. BPD patients showed hypervigilance for both negative and positive cues, but were specifically biased towards schema-related negative cues. Predictors were BPD schemas, childhood sexual traumas, and BPD anxiety symptoms. Both BPD and axis I disorder patients showed a trend for a bias for negative schema-related subliminal stimuli. More attention to hypervigilance in BPD is recommended for clinical practice.