Emotional Distress

People with borderline personality disorders, better known as BPD, show a deficiency in emotion regulation skills.

That might not sound like news but imagine getting so frustrated you wanted to smash your computer or scream really loud.  If that did not suffice, would you hurt yourself or would you just let out a sigh of discontent and continue on with your day? People with BPD can’t always control their emotions and might cut themselves or cause harm to their bodies to deal with heavy emotional situations.

An important question to ask is why do they do this?

Biology News Net has the answer.  They report that people with BPD show high rates of self-injurious behavior, which helps them to reduce negative emotional states. This all comes from a 2003 study conducted by John Nietfeld.

Nietfeld and his research team studied the effects of emotional and thermal stimuli in people with and without borderline personality disorder.  They used picture stimuli to induce either a negative, positive or neutral affect and thermal stimuli to induce heat pain or warmth perception.

The study found that patients with BPD had heightened activation of limbic circuitry in response to evocative pictures.  Amygdala stimulation also correlated with self-reported deficits in emotion regulation.  However, the thermal stimulus inhibited the activation of the amygdala in these patients and also in healthy controls.

“These data are consistent with the hypothesis that physically painful stimuli provide some relief from emotional distress for some patients with borderline personality disorder because they paradoxically inhibit brain regions involved in emotion.  This process may help them to compensate for deficient emotional regulation mechanisms,” states Dr. John Krystal, editor of Biological Psychiatry.

An interesting thought, why is it that humans can override one pain with another?

What are your thoughts on this study?

One response to “Emotional Distress”

  1. Keith D. says:

    Emotional response is designed to prevent physical discomfort or pain, but if one should feel physical discomfort or pain anyway then the emotional response has failed to do its job to some extent, so overriding that and returning to a less emotionally aroused state would allow a more reasoned, rational response to the situation. Basically it’s the next logical step in the effort of the organism to ensure its survival. That’s my theory anyway. 🙂

    This is interesting though. I wonder if pinching myself would have an effect when I’m starting to get upset over something I know should be trivial. I’ll have to try to remember this next time it happens and try it to see what the effect is.

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