Altered psychobiological reactivity but no impairment of emotion recognition following stress in adolescents with non-suicidal self-injury


Abstract Impairments in both stress regulation and emotion recognition have been associated with borderline personality disorder (BPD) and non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI). Although it has been proposed that emotion recognition deficits particularly emerge during stress, this hypothesis has not been fully investigated. Adolescents with and without NSSI performed emotion recognition tasks before and after the employment of the Trier Social Stress Test (TSST). The psychobiological stress response was captured with psychological self-reports (affect, stress and dissociation), physiological recordings (heart rate, HR, and heart rate variability, HRV) and endocrinological sampling of saliva (cortisol and alpha-amylase). Mixed-linear models were applied to analyze stress-induced changes in emotion recognition performance and respective stress response measures. The TSST elicited altered psychobiological stress responses in adolescents with NSSI: A more pronounced decrease in positive affect, a more pronounced increase in negative affect, a less pronounced increase in HR, a less pronounced decrease in HRV and a more pronounced increase in alpha-amylase throughout the stress induction than adolescents without NSSI. Stress responses (dissociation, negative affect, cortisol and HR) differed as a function of BPD severity on a continuum, illustrating greater reactivity on self-reports but decreased biological responsiveness in those with greater BPD severity. Stress induction had similar effects on emotion recognition in adolescents with and without NSSI. Recognition sensitivity and recognition speed equally increased, in the absence of any differences in recognition accuracy. In contrast to prominent propositions, psychosocial stress does not appear to account for impaired emotion recognition across the BPD spectrum.

European Archives of Psychiatry and Clinical Neuroscience