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Social problem solving, autobiographical memory, trauma, and depression in women with borderline personality disorder and a history of suicide attempts

Authors

  • Liselotte Maurex,

    Corresponding author
    1. Section of Psychology, Department of Clinical Neuroscience, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden
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  • Mats Lekander,

    1. Section of Psychology, Department of Clinical Neuroscience, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden
    2. Osher Center for Integrative Medicine, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden
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  • Åsa Nilsonne,

    1. Section of Psychology, Department of Clinical Neuroscience, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden
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  • Eva E. Andersson,

    1. Section of Psychiatry, Department of Clinical Neuroscience, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden
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  • Marie Åsberg,

    1. Department of Clinical Sciences, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden
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  • Arne Öhman

    1. Section of Psychology, Department of Clinical Neuroscience, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden
    2. Stockholm Brain Institute, Sweden
    3. NIMH Center for Research on Emotion and Attention, University of Florida, Gainesville, USA
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Correspondence should be addressed to Dr Liselotte Maurex, Section of Psychology, Department of Clinical Neuroscience, Karolinska Institutet, 171 77 Stockholm, Sweden (e-mail: liselotte.maurex@ki.se).

Abstract

Objectives. The primary aim of this study was to compare the retrieval of autobiographical memory and the social problem-solving performance of individuals with borderline personality disorder (BPD) and a history of suicide attempts, with and without concurrent diagnoses of depression and/or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), to that of controls. Additionally, the relationships between autobiographical memory, social problem-solving skills, and various clinical characteristics were examined in the BPD group.

Design. Individuals with BPD who had made at least two suicide attempts were compared to controls with regard to specificity of autobiographical memory and social problem-solving skills. Autobiographical memory specificity and social problem-solving skills were further studied in the BPD group by comparing depressed participants to non-depressed participants; and autobiographical memory specificity was also studied by comparing participants with and without PTSD.

Method. A total of 47 women with a diagnosis of BPD and 30 controls completed the Autobiographical Memory Test, assessing memory specificity, and the means-end problem solving-procedure, measuring social problem-solving skills. The prevalence of suicidal/self-injurious behaviour, and the exposure to violence, was also assessed in the BPD group.

Results. Compared to controls, participants with BPD showed reduced specificity of autobiographical memory, irrespective of either concurrent depression, previous depression, or concurrent PTSD. The depressed BPD group displayed poor problem-solving skills. Further, an association between unspecific memory and poor problem-solving was displayed in the BPD group.

Conclusion. Our results confirmed that reduced specificity of autobiographical memory is an important characteristic of BPD individuals with a history of suicide attempt, independent of depression, or PTSD. Reduced specificity of autobiographical memory was further related to poor social problem-solving capacity in the BPD group.

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