The first aim of this study was to identify the course of positive states present in borderline personality disorder (BPD) and compare them with those of subjects with other personality disorders. The second was to compare the positive states of borderline patients who recovered from BPD with those who did not. Two hundred ninety patients with BPD and 72 non-borderline axis II subjects (OPD) completed the Positive Affect Scale (PAS), a 50-item self-report measure designed to assess positive states thought to be common among and characteristic of BPD over a 10-year course of prospective follow-up. Affective, cognitive and mixed PAS items were separately analysed on the basis of respective subscores. Borderline patients reported positive states less frequently than OPD subjects. Additionally, affective and cognitive subscores increased significantly for both groups taken together. Within the BPD group, recovered patients reported more positive states compared with non-recovered patients. Results also showed a significant increase in affective and cognitive states for both groups taken together. These results suggest a characteristic profile of positive states within borderline patients that is far lower than those reported by axis II comparison subjects. They also suggest that this characteristic profile is predictive of recovery of BPD over time. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.