Impaired mentalizing in depression and the effects of borderline personality disorder on this relationship


Background Mentalizing, the ability to understand the self and others as well as behaviour in terms of intentional mental states, is impaired in Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). Evidence for mentalizing deficits in other mental disorders, such as depression, is less robust and these links have never been explored while accounting for the effects of BPD on mentalizing. Additionally, it is unknown whether BPD symptoms might moderate any relationship between depressive symptoms and mentalizing.

            Using multivariate regression modelling on cross-sectional data obtained from a sample of 274 participants recruited from clinical settings, we investigated the association between mentalizing impairment and depression and examined whether this was moderated by the presence and number of concurrent BPD symptoms, while adjusting for socio-demographic confounders.
            Impaired mentalizing was associated with depressive symptoms, after adjustment for socio-demographic confounders and BPD symptoms (p = 0.002, β = − 0.18). BPD symptoms significantly moderated the association between impaired mentalizing and depressive symptoms (p = 0.003), with more severe borderline symptoms associated with a stronger effect of poor mentalization on increased depressive symptoms.
            Mentalizing impairments occur in depression even after adjusting for the effect of BPD symptoms. Our findings help further characterise mentalizing impairments in depression, as well as the moderating effect of BPD symptoms on this association.. Further longitudinal work is required to investigate the direction of association.




Borderline Personality Disorder and Emotion Dysregulation. 2021 May 04;8(1):15