DSM5 – Pathological personality traits in negative affectivity – b. Anxiousness: Worry about the negative effects of past unpleasant experiences and future negative possibilities.

    Jacob and others[1] investigated the emotional responses of 26 female BPD patients, 15 patients with major depressive disorder, and 28 controls, immediately  after listening to stories involving various moods and then again after a delay of three to six minutes. Sadness was stronger with both BPD and depression patients; however, BPD patients showed stronger reaction to anger, joy, anxiety and shame. They concluded that extreme negative affectivity may be a defining property of BPD.

                Baer and others[2] , in a review of the literature, looked at maladaptive cognitive processes in BPD patients. They concluded that BPD patients tend to focus on negative stimuli, have disproportionate negative memories, and tend to focus on negative beliefs about themselves, other people, and the world in general. They suppress negative thoughts and tend to run them over and over again in their minds. The idea of thought suppression bears further investigation. Rosenthal and others[3] iexamined the histories of 127 patients and determined that  emotional negativity was a stronger prediction of BPD than Childhood sexual abuse and that thought suppression was a major factor in emotional liability.

                So what does this mean in plain English? Well, simply put, we seem to be doomed to have a never ending procession of anxiety disorders because we cannot stop thinking about all the negative things that have happened to us in the past. When something that we interpret as bad happens we tend to try to suppress it because we either do not want to face it or we are afraid we will explode and then have to deal with shame and guilt. So we hold it in our minds longer thus giving our brain an opportunity to lock it into our long term memory. Therefore our brain gets overloaded with all these negative memories that it hooks up to other memories thus creating  these negative mind states or beliefs which in turn create and control our thinking patterns and behavior patterns. This creates a disposition; our prefrontal cortex expects bad things to happen so they usually happen because we are somehow creating them or attracting them into the present situation. We are sending negative massages to others so they usually respond negatively, and even if they aren’t we think they are.  We are controlled by our belief that the world is unsafe and mean spirited so we tend to see what we expect to see. So when something similar seems to be happening, we get emotional right away. We feel really sad or really mad. And around we go.   

Hey- it’s not hopeless. I will have some suggestions for you next week. So hang in there. (For more information on this topic go to – In Search of the Lost Self- How to Survive and Thrive with Borderline Personality Disorder, by Lawrence J. W. Cooper, now available on Amazon)

[1] Jacob, Gretta A.; Hellstern, Kathrin; Ower, Nicole; Pillmann, Mona; Scheel, Corinna N.; Rüsch, Nicolas*; Lieb, Klaus. Emotional Reactions to Standardized Stimuli in Women With Borderline Personality Disorder: Stronger Negative Affect, But No Differences in Reactivity. The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease: 2009.

[2] ,Ruth A.; Peters, Jessica R.; Eisenlohr, Tory A.;Geiger, Paul J.; and Sauer, Shannon E.. Emotion-related cognitive processes in borderline personality disorder: A review of the empirical literature. Clinical Psychology Review: 2012.

[3] Rosenthal, Zachary M.; Cheavens, Jennifer S.; Lejuez, Carl J.; and Lynch, Thomas B..    Thought suppression mediates the relationship between negative affect and borderline personality disorder symptoms. : 2005, Pages 1173-1185