Emotion regulation deficits as mediators between trauma exposure and borderline symptoms

Raluca M. Gaher, Nicole L. Hofman, Jeffrey S. Simons, Ryan Hunsaker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


We tested a model of mechanisms linking the experience of trauma exposure with borderline personality symptoms via deficits in core aspects of emotion regulation. Participants were college students (N = 579). History of traumatic exposure and negative affectivity were positively and emotional intelligence inversely associated with borderline symptoms. These effects were mediated via alexithymia. Deficits in identifying and describing emotions, in turn, were associated with poor tolerance for emotional distress and an increase in acting rashly when negatively aroused. Finally, distress tolerance exhibited both direct, and indirect (via urgency), associations with borderline personality symptoms. Deficits in the ability to identify, describe, and understand emotion are related to intolerance for distress and impulsive behavior when negatively aroused. The effects of distress tolerance are consistent with theoretical models that posit that intolerance for distress contributes to deficits in behavioral regulation. Borderline personality symptoms reflect deficits in behavioral control when negatively aroused as well as a pattern of negative evaluations, poor self-efficacy, and emotional absorption contributing to marked interference with adaptive goal directed activity when distressed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)466-475
Number of pages10
JournalCognitive Therapy and Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2013


  • Borderline symptoms
  • Distress tolerance
  • Emotion regulation
  • Trauma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology

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