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Alliance funding supports research into Borderline Personality Disorder

A collaboration funded by the Monash Warwick Alliance has led to new insights into the diagnosis and treatment of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), a serious mental health disorder characterised by extreme emotional, interpersonal and behavioural dysregulation.

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BPD affects around 1-6% of the general population and commonly occurs against a background of childhood trauma. Dr. John Michael, University of Warwick and Professor Jakob Hohwy, Monash University have shared their expertise in order to develop a theoretical approach to understanding some of the social cognitive symptoms associated with BPD. By building a strong departmental collaboration between the two institutions, they were able to launch a comprehensive project probing the sense of commitment in BPD, resulting in vital new insights for diagnosis and treatment of the condition.

Dr John Michael, Philosophy, University of Warwick, said;

After several months developing the ideas together, we were able to run a battery of experiments in the UK as well as online. Our findings provide support for the hypothesis that BPD may give rise to a difficulty in adapting one’s social expectations and behaviour in light of interpersonal commitments and in a manner that is calibrated to the social norms in the community. In view of the importance of interpersonal commitment for healthy social relationships, this could be an important factor contributing to some of the interpersonal difficulties experienced by many individuals with BPD -- e.g. conflicted relationships, difficulty trusting others, fear of abandonment, and patterns of overinvolvement/withdrawal as well as idealization/devaluation of relationships.

The funding from the Monash Warwick Alliance enabled us to hold a series of focused research meetings which culminated in an interdisciplinary workshop to bring together cognitive psychologists and physicians to share their research and approaches to BPD.”

Professor Simon Swain, FBA said;

Warwick wants to support our academics to undertake research that could have a life-changing impact on our society. The depth and breadth of our Alliance with Monash University enables us to share the expertise and equipment of our two institutions to achieve a greater combined research capacity. I am delighted to see that Alliance support has facilitated such a strong collaboration between our Philosophy departments and the opportunity for further joint research in the future is very exciting."

Looking ahead, Professor Michael and Professor Hohwy are preparing applications for further funding to expand the project, and are planning a new round of experiments to be implemented later this year. In addition to the paper reporting the results of the experiments so far conducted (currently under review), they are also working on a theoretical paper applying Bayesian computational modelling to social cognition in BPD.