The role of emotion regulation in borderline personality disorder and self-injury

Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is among the most complex, misunderstood, and stigmatized mental health problems. It is a serious psychiatric condition characterized by instability in relationships, emotions, identity, and behaviour that often induces intense emotional suffering and places affected individuals at high risk of suicide and self-injury. Approximately 10% of individuals affected by BPD die by suicide, 75% have attempted suicide, and 70-80% self-injure. BPD is also a significant concern for the public health-care system. Patients affected by BPD represent up to 20% of psychiatric inpatients and heavily utilize outpatient and hospital emergency services. In fact, the estimated costs to the health-care system per year for each BPD patient range from US$12,000–$30,000. Self-injury and other problems in BPD appear to be related to problems in the management of emotions, or emotion regulation problems.

Dr. Alexander Chapman’s research aims to better understand and treat BPD and related problems, such as self-injury and suicidal behaviour, by examining the role of emotions in BPD and self-injury. Research in his lab, the Personality and Emotion Research Laboratory, includes a variety of studies aimed at better understanding what causes and maintains BPD and self-injury, as well as studies designed to help us understand how to effectively treat BPD. He is also conducting studies on the risks and protective factors for self-injury.

Dr. Chapman’s short-term goal is to continue to develop his research on BPD in two key areas: (1) the role of emotion regulation in BPD and self-injury, and (2) effective treatments for BPD and NSSI. He has several grants for studies in these areas and hopes to expand this research over the next five years. In the long-term, Dr. Chapman would like to develop an interdisciplinary research, treatment, and education centre focused on BPD, self-injury, and related health problems. Such a centre would be unique in Canada and would have the potential to significantly improve our understanding and treatment of BPD as well as the education and training of junior researchers and professionals.