Difficulties with emotion regulation mediate the relationship between borderline personality disorder symptom severity and interpersonal problems


Address correspondence to: Nathaniel R. Herr, Department of Psychology, American University, Asbury 321A, 4400 Massachusetts Ave NW, Washington, D.C. 20016. Email: nherr@american.edu.


Problems with interpersonal functioning and difficulties with emotion regulation are core characteristics of borderline personality disorder (BPD). Little is known, however, about the interrelationship between these areas of dysfunction in accounting for BPD symptom severity. The present study examines a model of the relationship between difficulties with emotion regulation and interpersonal dysfunction in a community sample of adults (n = 124) with the full range of BPD symptoms. Results showed that difficulties with emotion regulation fully mediated the relationship between BPD symptom severity and interpersonal dysfunction. An alternative model indicated that interpersonal problems partially mediated the relationship between difficulties with emotion regulation and BPD symptom severity. These findings support existing theories of BPD, which propose that difficulties with emotion regulation may account for the types of interpersonal problems experienced by individuals with BPD and suggest further examination of the possibility that interpersonal dysfunction may worsen these individuals' difficulties with emotion regulation. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.