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Momentary interpersonal processes of suicidal surges in borderline personality disorder

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 December 2020

Aleksandra Kaurin*
Department of Psychology, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA
Alexandre Y. Dombrovski
Department of Psychiatry, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA
Michael N. Hallquist
Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA
Aidan G. C. Wright
Department of Psychology, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA
Author for correspondence: Aleksandra Kaurin, E-mail:



Suicide rates are high in borderline personality disorder (BPD) where interpersonal problems trigger intense affective dysregulation and impulses to act on suicidal thoughts. To date, however, no study has examined how interpersonal stressors contribute to momentary within-person links among affect and impulsivity with suicidal ideation (SI), and how those links vary over time in people's daily lives.


A total of 153 individuals diagnosed with BPD and 52 healthy controls completed a 21-day ecological momentary assessment protocol. Of these 153 individuals with BPD, 105 had a history of suicide attempts. Multilevel structural equation modeling was used to examine dynamic links among interpersonal perceptions, affect, state impulsivity, and suicidal intent.


Aggregated across interactions, lower perceived warmth in others was associated with SI. This direct relationship, however, did not extend to momentary within-person associations. Instead, interpersonal conflicts were linked to SI indirectly via greater negative affect and lower positive affect. While a robust within-person link between interpersonal perceptions and impulsivity emerged, impulsivity did not account for the relationship between interpersonal perceptions and SI.


This intensive longitudinal study illustrates momentary interpersonal signatures of an emerging suicidal crisis. Among people with BPD at high risk for suicide, interpersonal triggers initiate a cascade of affective dysregulation, which in turn gives rise to SI.

Original Article
Copyright © The Author(s) 2020. Published by Cambridge University Press

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