The relationship between autobiographical memory and Borderline Personality Disorder
Previous research has shown that people who are depressed, have recently attempted suicide or experienced childhood sexual abuse have difficulties recalling specific autobiographical events from memory. This overgeneral memory bias has been found for both negative and positive events and has been found to be a maladaptive cognitive style. The present study is an investigation of autobiographical memory retrieval in people diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, a disorder which has para-suicidal behaviour as one of its diagnostic criterion. The BPD group (n = 23) was compared with a control group (n = 23) on i) a measure for autobiographical memory retrieval, ii) various measures of mood, iii) a dissociative experiences scale and iv) frequency of para-suicidal incidents. In line with hypotheses, results indicated that the subject group produced significantly more overgeneral autobiographical memories than the control group. This memory bias remained for positive and negative events when depression was statistically controlled. No differences were found between the two groups on autobiographical memory for neutral events when depression was statistically controlled. Analysis indicated that dissociation positively correlated with overgeneral autobiographical memory and that both depression and anxiety correlated with selfharm. A trend was also found between overgeneral autobiographical memory and self-harm, suggesting that overgeneral memory may function as a defence mechanism, protecting individuals from self-harrrýing behaviour. These results are discussed in relation to the current theories of autobiographical memory and the nature of dissociation in memory disturbance. The importance of assessing Axis I disorders and targeting of mood in clinical practice, to decrease self-harm, is highlighted. The study also highlights the heterogeneous nature of Borderline Personality Disorder. The implications for clinical practice are discussed and guidelines for further research are outlined.