The impact of stress and dissociation on psychotic experiences in Borderline Personality Disorder
We are currently seeking participants for our study!
Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), also often called Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder (EUPD) is a diagnosis used to describe a set of experiences that cause significant distress and suffering. In addition to prominent mood and anxiety symptoms many individuals with BPD experience psychotic experiences like hearing voices and paranoid beliefs. However, these psychotic experiences in BPD have been understudied and there remains a lot we do not know about them.
The purpose of this study is to develop a better understanding of these experiences and potential brain mechanisms that underlie them. To do this we will look at factors that are known to be relevant to BPD and/or psychosis, such as post-traumatic symptoms and adversity, as well as brain mechanisms that we know are relevant to psychosis from studies in people with schizophrenia.
Our aim is to develop a more comprehensive picture of the nature and range of psychotic experiences in BPD, understand the factors that contribute to them and gain insights into brain mechanisms that may underlie these.
Are you interested in taking part?
For this study, we are looking at adults who have current lived experience of BPD, as well as healthy volunteers. Specifically, we need people who either have a current diagnosis of BPD/EUPD OR people who have never experienced any major mental health disorder.
Before you can be included, we must check you meet certain conditions, for example that you are 18-65 years old and have not been diagnosed with a psychotic disorder.
If you are interested in participating, you can fill out our short screening questionnaire which checks that you meet the eligibility criteria for the study. To be eligible, you must be between 18 and 65 years old and have no significant history of neurological, or psychotic disease. You must not currently be using antipsychotic medication. In addition, you must not have experienced problematic alcohol or substance abuse in the previous 6 months.
If you are interested, please follow the link below which will take you to our screening platform.
Further information and FAQs
What will happen to me if I take part?
If you are interested in participating in the study, you will be invited to complete an online screening form to see if you are eligible to take part in the study. If you are eligible, you will be contacted by a member of the research team to confirm a date for your in-person study session.
About the Screening
This will take about 5-10 minutes and will ask you about your BPD diagnosis, if you have ever had psychotic experiences, and if you currently suffer from any other mental or physical health conditions that would exclude you from the study e.g. having had a serious head injury or suffering with a psychotic illness like schizophrenia. Before you complete the screening form, you will be asked to provide informed consent for this portion of the study. This is because we would like to use the information from the screening step to build a wider picture of the range and frequency of psychotic experiences in BPD. All information from the screening form will be kept confidential, and it will not be linked to your name.
There is a chance that you might not be eligible for the study session based on the results of the screening form. While we understand this might be disappointing to you, your responses will contribute to our understanding psychotic experiences in BPD. You will not be paid for completing the screening form.
About the Study Session
You will be asked to visit the Dept. of Psychiatry at Douglas House on Trumpington Road. The study will be conducted in 1 session. The session should take approximately 2 hours.
When you arrive, a member of the research team will meet with you to confirm that you are eligible, and to go through this information sheet and answer any questions that you may have. You will then be asked to sign a consent form before taking part in the study. We will also ask you to bring confirmation of your BPD diagnosis. A confirmation of diagnosis could be a letter from your GP or psychiatrist, a copy of a previous psychiatric assessment, or a letter from a Personality Disorder Community Service or hospital. We will just ask you to briefly show this document to us and will not keep it or look at its personal content. Please let us know if you are unsure what types of confirmation you can bring, and we will help you find one.
At the beginning of the session, you will be asked to complete a series of questionnaires about your current state, including your levels of anxiety and any dissociative or psychosis-like experiences you may be having in the moment. After completing these, you will be given two computerised image tasks.
You will also be given some more questionnaires that ask about your BPD symptoms, personal history, and any particularly stressful/traumatic events you may have experienced in your life.
You will then be asked to perform another computerised task, asking you to solve mathematical problems in your head under time pressure. This may make you slightly anxious. Finally, you will be given the same questionnaires and tasks you completed at the beginning of the study, to assess any changes in your current mental state or the way you process information.
At the end of the study, you can take your time to ask any more questions you might have and to recover from any feelings of distress you may have experienced as a result of the questions and/or the task. There will be water and the opportunity for a break about halfway through the study.
Will I be paid for my time?
You will be paid £25 in total for taking part in the study. The session should take about 2 hours.
What are the possible risks of taking part?
One of the computerised tasks may make you feel slightly anxious. If at any point you want to pause or to not to continue the study, you can stop without needing to provide a reason why. There are no risks associated with the questionnaires or psychological tasks in this study. However, some people may feel uncomfortable answering questions about their mood, thoughts, or personal history.
Should you have thoughts of harming yourself, please contact your local care team, GP or one of the national helplines, such as Samaritans (116 123). More information can be found at:
What are the possible benefits of taking part?
You will not benefit directly from taking part in the study. The purpose of this study is to understand range of dissociative and psychotic experiences in BPD, how or why they occur and how they are affected by stress. If you like, you can sign up to receive an email copy of any scientific publications that result from this study.
What will happen if I don’t want to carry on with the study?
You can withdraw from the study at any time without having to explain why. We will only ask you if you’ll allow us to retain the data of your participation or if you want to withdraw all data.
Will my taking part in this study be kept confidential?
All information collected about you during the study will be kept strictly confidential. The normal principles of confidentiality apply just as when you visit your doctor. There are rare occasions when doctors and researchers are obliged to break confidentiality, and this is when they are concerned for your safety or for the safety of others. In such situations the doctors and researchers have a duty to inform the relevant authorities and take the necessary steps to ensure your and/or other people’s safety.
Who is organising and funding the research?
This study is organised by the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Cambridge and funded by research funds in the Health Neuroscience lab.
Who has reviewed the study?
This study has been reviewed by the Cambridge Psychological Research Ethics Committee, Reference number PRE.2023.032
What if I have any concerns or complaints about the study?
If you have concerns about any aspect of this study, you should ask to speak to the researchers who will do their best to answer your questions (details provided below). If you remain unhappy and wish to complain formally, you can do this by contacting the Chief Investigator Paul Fletcher (for contact details see below).
Charley Peitzmeier, PhD Student, Department of Psychiatry, email@example.com
Dr Hisham Ziauddeen, Honorary consultant psychiatrist & Senior Research Associate, Department of Psychiatry and Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Foundation Trust, firstname.lastname@example.org
Prof Paul Fletcher, Honorary consultant psychiatrist and Professor, Department of Psychiatry and Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Foundation Trust, email@example.com
We hope that the results of this study will advance the understanding of psychotic experiences in people with Borderline Personality Disorder, which will aid in the management and treatment of this highly stigmatised and under-researched condition.
PsychREC Ref: PRE.2020.084