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Emotional responses to social rejection and failure among persons with borderline personality features

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(Thesis) M.A.
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Despite widespread theorizing regarding the role of heightened emotionality in the difficulties of persons with borderline personality disorder (BPD), few studies have examined whether persons with BPD features experience heightened emotional reactions to emotional stimuli in the laboratory. Existing research suggests that persons with BPD may experience heightened reactivity primarily to interpersonal stressors. Thus, for the present study, a new social rejection laboratory stressor was developed. Undergraduates with high (n=30) or low (n=44) BPD features were randomly assigned to either an academic failure or the social rejection emotion induction. High-BPD participants reported a greater increase in negative emotions generally, and shame and anger specifically, following social rejection than low-BPD participants. These findings suggest that rather than global reactivity, persons with BPD features may only demonstrate heightened emotional reactivity in certain contexts and for particular emotions.
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