Empirical evidence to support the relationship between borderline personality disorder (BPD) traits and "hypermentalizing" in adolescents has been provided in a new study.
Mentalizing is the social intelligence that refers to the ability to infer and attribute thoughts and feelings to understand and predict another person's behaviour.
"Borderline personality disorder is a condition in which people have long-term patterns of unstable or turbulent emotions about themselves and others. These inner experiences often cause them to take impulsive actions and have chaotic relationships," said Carla Sharp, an associate professor at the University of Houston (UH), and primary investigator of the study.
"The criteria for BPD includes: excessive anger, affective instability, a clear pattern of self-harm over two years - burning, cutting, suicide attempts, abandonment fears, relationship problems, significant impulsivity - drinking alcohol, drug abuse, eating, anorexia, overeating and illegal activities, she stated.
The UH research team found that young adults who met criteria for BPD had a higher frequency of these overmentalizing responses.
The second part of the finding was the hypermentalizing interacted with emotional regulation.
The individuals with BPD misread people's thoughts, upsetting the adolescent and creating a challenge with emotion regulation that leads to an increase in borderline personality disorder symptoms.
"This research study is groundbreaking in that it's the first to provide empirical evidence of the link between BPD and mentalizing in adolescents. By identifying precursors and treating BPD early in adolescence, we can use validated treatments to help these children," Sharp added.
The research featured on the cover of the June edition of the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.