Autobiographical memory and parasuicide in borderline personality disorder


School of Psychology, University of Wales, Bangor, Gwynedd LL57 2DG, UK (e-mail:


Background. Several studies have found that parasuicidal patients are poor at recalling specific autobiographical memories when tested with the word-cueing paradigm and two studies have reported some evidence that over-general recall is a risk factor for repetition of parasuicide. The aim of the present study was to test whether this association could be replicated with a sample of patients suffering from borderline personality disorder (BPD).

Method. Twenty-three patients with BPD completed a version of the Autobiographical Memory Test (AMT) and self-report measures of depression, anxiety and trait anger. In a structured interview, they also reported the number of times they had engaged in parasuicidal acts during the previous 4 months.

Results. The number of general memories produced on the AMT made a significant contribution to the prediction of the frequency of parasuicidal acts in a multiple regression analysis but the partial correlation in the final equation was negative. That is, those who showed greatest over-general recall reported fewest parasuicidal acts. Anxiety and depression, but not trait anger, also made significant independent contributions to the prediction of parasuicide.

Conclusion. Over-general autobiographical recall may help to protect borderline individuals from parasuicidal acts by helping them to avoid distressing memories.