Rejection prompts approach motivation and hostility among individuals with borderline personality disorder

Open Access
Beeney, Joseph
Graduate Program:
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
May 31, 2012
Committee Members:
  • Kenneth Levy, Dissertation Advisor
  • Kenneth Levy, Committee Chair
  • Peter Andrew Arnett, Committee Member
  • William Ray, Committee Member
  • Lisa Michelle Kopp, Special Member
  • EEG asymmetry
  • psychopathology
  • emotion
  • anger
  • rejection sensitivity
Research suggests individuals with borderline personality disorder (BPD) are acutely sensitive to social rejection. Furthermore, unlike other disorders marked by greater sensitivity to rejection such as major depression (MDD), those with BPD appear to experience increased hostility in response to rejection, which often precedes a myriad of maladaptive behaviors. However, potential mechanisms between rejection experiences and hostility with individuals with BPD have not been elaborated. The goal of the present study was to assess whether rejection prompts relatively greater left frontal cortical activation among BPD patients, consistent with approach motivation, and whether BPD patients were more hostile following rejection. We assessed EEG asymmetry at baseline, after a rejection task, and after a subsequent retaliation task. Compared to healthy controls and MDD patients, BPD patients evidenced greater left frontal asymmetry after being rejected and provided more hostile responses on one metric, but not another, in the subsequent task. The implications of these findings are discussed along with a discussion of lower overall frontal alpha values among the BPD group. Factors in promoting maladaptive behavior following rejection among individuals with BPD appears to be rejection sensitivity and approach motivation.