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19-05-2015 | Original Article | Uitgave 5/2015

Cognitive Therapy and Research 5/2015

Examining the Shared and Unique Features of Self-Concept Content and Structure in Borderline Personality Disorder and Depression

Cognitive Therapy and Research > Uitgave 5/2015
Davy Evans, Tim Dalgleish, Robert B. Dudas, Chess Denman, Maxine Howard, Barnaby D. Dunn
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The online version of this article (doi:10.​1007/​s10608-015-9695-3) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.


A number of clinical theories emphasise self-concept disturbance as central to borderline personality disorder (BPD). To date, however, there has been limited empirical examination of exactly how BPD changes the content and structure of self-concept. Moreover, it is unclear if patterns of self-concept disturbance are unique to BPD or are driven by axis-I comorbidities such as depression. To examine this issue, the present study adopted a dimensional design, examining how performance on a novel adaptation of a well-validated measure of self-concept (the Psychological Distance Scaling Task) was related to BPD and depression symptoms in a sample of 93 individuals with a wide range of symptom severity. While greater BPD severity was associated with less positive and more negative content of self-concept, this was driven by depression symptoms. Similarly, positive content was more diffuse and negative content more interconnected at higher levels of BPD severity, but for positive content, this was most clearly linked to comorbid depression features. In contrast, BPD severity (over and above depression symptoms) was uniquely associated with greater ‘clustering’ for positive and negative content (i.e. a more fragmented self-concept). This pattern of results lends support to clinical theories arguing that self-concept fragmentation is core to BPD and also supports the utility of dimensional analyses to identify patterns of cognitive-affective disturbance unique to BPD versus those shared with comorbid conditions like depression.

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