Objective: This study was designed to examine the subjective appraisal of aversive tension under conditions of daily life in patients with borderline personality disorder (BPD).
Method: A sample of 63 female subjects with BPD and 40 mentally healthy controls were each given a hand-held computer. For two consecutive days, participants were prompted at hourly intervals to record their current state of aversive tension and prompting events.
Results: Compared with controls, states of aversive tension occurred significantly more frequently in BPD patients. The average levels of aversive tension were significantly higher, and the rate of increase in tension was markedly more rapid. Furthermore, states of aversive tension persisted for a longer period. Among BPD subjects three events (rejection, being alone, and failure) account for 39% of all events preceding states of tension.
Conclusion: The study provides support for the theory that patients with BPD experience more frequent, stronger, and longer-lasting states of aversive tension.