BPD as a disorder of intersubjectivity: identity disturbances in borderline personality disorder

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is a psychiatric condition marked by instability in interpersonal relationships, behaviour, mood and self-image. BPD is associated with high rates of suicide, self-harm, substance abuse and hospitalization, and comes at a significant cost to both individuals and society. One symptom of BPD is an inability to maintain a stable sense of identity, which is associated with distress and health risk behaviours. However, the specific types of identity problems, the factors that contribute to identity problems, and the effects of identity disturbance in BPD are unclear. In recent decades, it has been proposed that personal identity is related to life narratives, where a cohesive life story helps a person to maintain a stable sense of identity. Nathalie Lovasz is clarifying the specific identity problems experienced by persons with BPD. Using measures of identity disturbance, she is comparing people with and without BPD. She is also examining potential contributors to identity disturbance in BPD, focusing in particular on whether narrative coherence mediates or accounts for identity disturbance, and the relationship between identity disturbances and emotional states. This research could help clinicians zero in on the specific types of identity problems faced by people with BPD. This research could also lead to improved diagnosis, identifying components of the symptom that are most unique and important to BPD.