The role of negative affect and self-concept clarity in predicting self-injurious urges in borderline personality disorder using ecological momentary assessment

J. Wesley Scala, Kenneth N. Levy, Benjamin N. Johnson, Yogev Kivity, William D. Ellison, Aaron L. Pincus, Stephen J. Wilson, Michelle G. Newman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


Deficits in identity as well as negative affect have been shown to predict selfinjurious and suicidal behaviors in individuals with borderline personality disorder (BPD). However, less is known about the interactive effects of these two predictors. We examined the moderating effect of a particular component of identity, self-concept, on the relationship between negative affect and self-injurious urges utilizing ecological momentary assessments. Outpatients diagnosed with either BPD (n = 36) or any anxiety disorder but no BPD (n = 18) completed surveys throughout the day over a 21-day period. Higher levels of momentary negative affect predicted greater subsequent urges to self-injure, but only when self-concept clarity was low (z = −3.60, p <. 01). This effect did not differ between diagnostic groups. The results suggest that self-concept clarity has a protective effect against self-injurious urges in light of high negative affect, and that this effect may be transdiagnostic.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)36-57
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Personality Disorders
StatePublished - Jan 2018
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by grants from the Pennsylvania State University Social Science Research Institute (PI: Levy) and secondary grants to William D. Ellison from a dissertation grant from the Pennsylvania State University Research and Graduate Studies Office, and grants from the American Psychoanalytic Association and the International Psychoanalytic Association. We thank Emily A. Dowgwillo, MS, for her assistance in developing training material and coordinating the collection of data, and Kathleen Bohomey, Colin Carey, Caroline Curran, Wendi Falk, Sarah Forsythe, Laura Frey, Caroline Gooch, Jessica Grom, Brittani Hollern, Lauren Lipner, Kristin McLaughlin, Megan Moyer, Joanna Pantelides, Megan Parker, Jacqueline Proczynski, Carolina Ribo, Silvia Rizkallah, Aimee Sohnleitner, and Alyssa Spaw for their assistance in data collection, and Jennifer Fox and Allison Clark for their assistance in the recruitment of participants. We also thank Dr. James LeBreton for his feedback on earlier drafts of the manuscript as well as data analytic advice, Nilam Ram and Lori N. Scott for data analytic advice, and Drs. Peter Molenaar and Joshua Smyth for guidance in the design of the study.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 The Guilford Press.


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