Patients with borderline personality disorder (BPD) exhibit dysregulated emotion sequences in daily life compared to healthy controls (HC). Empirical evidence regarding the specificity of these findings is currently lacking.
To replicate dysregulated emotion sequences in patients with BPD and to investigate the specificity of the sequences, we used e-diaries of 43 female patients with BPD, 28 patients with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), 20 patients with bulimia nervosa (BN), and 28 HC. To capture the rapid dynamics of emotions, we prompted participants every 15 min over a 24-h period to assess their current perceived emotions. We analyzed group differences in terms of activation, persistence, switches, and down-regulation of emotion sequences.
By comparing patients with BPD to HC, we replicated five of the seven previously reported dysregulated emotion sequences, as well as 111 out of 113 unaltered sequences. However, none of the previously reported dysregulated emotion sequences exhibited specificity, i.e., none revealed higher frequencies compared to the PTSD group or the BN group. Beyond these findings, we revealed a specific finding for patients with BN, as they most frequently switched from anger to disgust.
Replicating previously found dysregulated and unaltered emotional sequences strengthens the significance of emotion sequences. However, the lack of specificity points to emotion sequences as transdiagnostic features.