To investigate sequences of emotions (temporal dependence of emotions) to identify specific patterns of borderline personality disorder (BPD).
The perceived emotions of 50 BPD patients and 50 healthy controls (HC) were monitored by using a hand-held computer system for a 24-h period in a daily life setting. Participants were prompted four times per hour to assess their current perceived emotions. Differences between BPD patients and HC in terms of activation, persistence and down-regulation of emotions were analyzed.
Healthy controls in contrast to BPD patients more often activated joy and interest. BPD patients more often experienced persistence of anxiety and sadness. BPD patients more frequently switched from anxiety to sadness, from anxiety to anger and from sadness to anxiety. Anger was predominantly preceded by anxiety.
Persistence of sadness and anxiety, as well as emotional oscillating between anxiety, sadness and anger are important aspects of the emotional dysregulation in BPD patients.