Name: Anita Hibbert
Supervisors: Dr. Lisa Burckell and Dr. Brenda Key
Education Program and Level: Psychology Resident; Graduate Student (PhD) in Clinical Psychology at the University of British Columbia
I am currently a psychology resident at St. Joseph's Healthcare Hamilton, with a major rotation in the Borderline Personality Disorder Service, and a minor rotation at the Anxiety Treatment and Research Clinic. For my doctoral dissertation, I am examining the impact of current mood state on how people respond on self-report measures of personality. In the fall I will be starting a part-time postdoctoral position in the Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) program in the Community Psychiatry Clinic at St. Joseph's Healthcare Hamilton, and plan to continue to hone my skills as a DBT clinician during my supervised practice year.
Borderline personality disorder (BPD) symptomatology has been associated with lower levels of trait mindfulness. Dialectical behaviour therapy is an effective treatment for BPD, and mindfulness skills training is an important component of this therapy. It is thought that mindfulness skills training leads to decreases in BPD symptoms by decreasing individuals’ levels of emotion dysregulation. However, there is little research that has actually examined whether this is the case. The purpose of the present study was to investigate the relationship between trait mindfulness and BPD symptoms, and to see whether differences in levels of emotion dysregulation explained some of this association.
Fifty individuals with a diagnosis of BPD who were enrolled in the DBT program at St. Joseph's Healthcare Hamilton have taken part in the study to date. At the beginning of treatment, participants filled out a questionnaire which assessed four different types of mindfulness skills: observing, describing, acting with awareness, and accepting without judgment. Participants also completed a measure of emotion dysregulation, and a measure of borderline personality disorder symptoms.
The results showed that two of the four trait mindfulness skills were associated with BPD symptoms, albeit in opposite directions: higher levels of the ‘accepting without judgment’ skill were related to lower levels of BPD symptoms, whereas higher levels of the ‘observing’ skill were related to higher levels of BPD symptoms. We also found that emotion dysregulation did mediate these relationships. Specifically, higher levels of the ‘accepting without judgment’ skill predicted lower levels of emotion dysregulation, and lower levels of emotion dysregulation in turn predicted lower levels of BPD symptoms. This pathway explained part of the association between the ‘accepting without judgment’ skill and BPD symptoms. Additionally, higher levels of the ‘observing’ mindfulness skill predicted higher levels of emotion dysregulation, and higher levels of emotion dysregulation in turn predicted higher levels of BPD symptoms. In this case, emotion dysregulation fully explained the association between the ‘observing’ skill and BPD symptoms.
The findings from the current study support prior research on the relationship between mindfulness skills and BPD symptoms. The results are interesting in that they demonstrate that there is something particularly potent about the ‘accepting without judgment’ mindfulness skill: increasing the use of this skill may be an important target for treatment. Additionally, we found that the ‘observing’ skill is actually related to higher levels of emotion dysregulation and BPD symptoms – at least at the outset of treatment. This suggests that when teaching clients to increase their awareness of emotions, it is important to provide additional tools for coping with the increases in emotional distress which may occur.
Read Anita’s abstract here.
For the full abstract listing from Research Day 2018, visit our Research Events page.