Reading Emotion From Faces

Borderline personality disorder linked to lower sensitivity to facial expressions of emotion

(RxWiki News) Teens with borderline personality disorder may have decreased ability to read minor facial expressions of emotion. This difference may help to explain relationship difficulties for people with this disorder.

In a recent study, adolescents with borderline personality disorder were asked to view faces with various emotional expressions.

They had more difficulty identifying mild expressions of happiness and anger – needing more intense expressions of these emotions to identify them.

"Ask your psychologist about improving your relationships."

A key feature of borderline personality disorder is troubled relationships related to interpersonal communication and showing empathy for others. Reading the facial expressions and emotions of others is an important skill used in relationships and communication.

A study, led by Marion Robin, MD, from the Department of Adolescent and Young Adult Psychiatry, Institut Mutualiste Montsouris and the Paris Descartes University in Paris, France, compared the way teens with borderline personality disorder rated facial expressions compared to unaffected teens.

The study participants were asked to look at quickly appearing faces that had a variety of emotional expressions. They were asked to rate the emotion as quickly as possible.

The teens with borderline personality disorder had difficulty recognizing happiness and anger when the facial expressions were not intense. They did not have trouble recognizing expressions when the emotions were severe or intense.

The authors stated that this finding shows that teens with borderline personality disorder have lowered sensitivity to facial expressions of emotions. They concluded that this difference may be a factor in relationship struggles for people with borderline personality disorder, and emotion recognition skills may be a target for therapies.

This study tested a small sample of women, so it is unclear if this is true for men and larger populations with borderline personality disorder. The results of this study were published April 3, 2012 in Psychiatry Research.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
April 13, 2012