Symptoms & Diagnosis

Borderline Personality Disorder and the (Mis)Interpretation of Anger

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BPD and AngerA 2013 study shows that people with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) may have difficulty interpreting the facial expressions of others. More specifically, they may interpret a neutral face as having an expression of anger.

Obviously, this can be troubling for those with Borderline Personality Disorder. In addition to creating even more interpersonal difficulties, this misinterpretation may contribute to other symptoms associated with BPD, such as fear of abandonment and intense and uncontrollable anger.

There may, however, be a plus side to these findings.

May Help Diagnosis BPD

Borderline Personality Disorder is often misdiagnosed or goes undiagnosed due to the fact that so many of the symptoms associated with BPD mimic symptoms of other mental health disorders, such as Bipolar Disorder.

In an article from U.S. News Health, Anthony Ruocco, a clinical neuropsychologist, explains that this trait of misreading facial expressions can be an important determining factor in the diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder.

“[Those with BPD] have difficulty processing facial emotions and will see a negative emotion on a neutral face,” said Ruocco, who led the study on facial emotions and Borderline Personality Disorder. “This is not seen in Bipolar Disorder or schizophrenia.”

The study found that people with Borderline Personality Disorder have other inaccuracies when reading emotion, particularly around the emotions of sadness, fear, and disgust. But, said Ruocco, the most notable misinterpretations centered around disgust and anger.

Ruocco proposed that this difficulty in correctly interpreting emotion on the faces of others could be linked to brain mechanisms, suggesting that pinpointing where the deficit lies could aid in better treating Borderline Personality Disorder in the future.


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