Oxytocin influences avoidant reactions to social threat in adults with borderline personality disorder

Authors

  • Martin Brüne,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Psychiatry, Psychotherapy and Preventive Medicine, Division of Cognitive Neuropsychiatry and Psychiatric Preventive Medicine, University of Bochum, LWL University Hospital, Bochum, Germany
    • Correspondence to: M. Brüne, Department of Psychiatry, Psychotherapy and Preventive Medicine, Division of Cognitive Neuropsychiatry and Psychiatric Preventive Medicine, University of Bochum, LWL University Hospital, Bochum, Germany. Tel: +49-234-5077-1130; Fax: +49-234-5077-1329 E-mail: martin.bruene@rub.de

    Search for more papers by this author
  • Andreas Ebert,

    1. Department of Psychiatry, Psychotherapy and Preventive Medicine, Division of Cognitive Neuropsychiatry and Psychiatric Preventive Medicine, University of Bochum, LWL University Hospital, Bochum, Germany
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Meike Kolb,

    1. Department of Psychiatry, Psychotherapy and Preventive Medicine, Division of Cognitive Neuropsychiatry and Psychiatric Preventive Medicine, University of Bochum, LWL University Hospital, Bochum, Germany
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Cumhur Tas,

    1. Department of Psychiatry, Psychotherapy and Preventive Medicine, Division of Cognitive Neuropsychiatry and Psychiatric Preventive Medicine, University of Bochum, LWL University Hospital, Bochum, Germany
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Marc-Andreas Edel,

    1. Department of Psychiatry, Psychotherapy and Preventive Medicine, Division of Cognitive Neuropsychiatry and Psychiatric Preventive Medicine, University of Bochum, LWL University Hospital, Bochum, Germany
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Patrik Roser

    1. Department of Psychiatry, Psychotherapy and Preventive Medicine, Division of Cognitive Neuropsychiatry and Psychiatric Preventive Medicine, University of Bochum, LWL University Hospital, Bochum, Germany
    Search for more papers by this author

Abstract

Background

Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is characterized by interpersonal dysfunction, emotional instability, impulsivity, and risk-taking behavior. Recent research has focused on the role of oxytocin in BPD, with mixed results as regards the processing of social stimuli.

Methods

In a double-blind randomized placebo-controlled study, 13 BPD patients and 13 controls performed a dot probe task to examine attentional biases to happy and angry faces after intranasal application of oxytocin or placebo. Childhood trauma was examined using the childhood trauma questionnaire.

Results

In the placebo condition, patients with BPD (but not controls) showed an avoidant reaction to angry faces (but not happy faces). The strength of the avoidant reaction correlated with the severity of childhood trauma. This behavioral response (as well as the correlation) was abolished in the oxytocin condition.

Conclusions

Adult patients with BPD show an avoidant response to social threat, a reaction that is linked with traumatic experiences during childhood. This response pattern is altered by oxytocin, possibly by reducing stress and inhibiting social withdrawal from distressing social stimuli. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Ancillary