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Individuals with a borderline personality disorder (BPD) suffer from a constellation of rapidly shifting emotional, interpersonal, and behavioral symptoms. The menstrual cycle may contribute to symptom instability among females with this disorder.
Fifteen healthy, unmedicated females with BPD and without dysmenorrhea reported daily symptoms across 35 days. Urine luteinizing hormone and salivary progesterone (P4) were used to confirm ovulation and cycle phase. Cyclical worsening of symptoms was evaluated using (1) phase contrasts in multilevel models and (2) the Carolina Premenstrual Assessment Scoring System (C-PASS), a protocol for evaluating clinically significant cycle effects on symptoms.
Most symptoms demonstrated midluteal worsening, a perimenstrual peak, and resolution of symptoms in the follicular or ovulatory phase. Post-hoc correlations with person-centered progesterone revealed negative correlations with most symptoms. Depressive symptoms showed an unexpected delayed pattern in which baseline levels of symptoms were observed in the ovulatory and midluteal phases, and exacerbations were observed during both the perimenstrual and follicular phases. The majority of participants met C-PASS criteria for clinically significant (⩾30%) symptom exacerbation. All participants met the emotional instability criterion of BPD, and no participant met DSM-5 criteria for premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD).
Females with BPD may be at elevated risk for perimenstrual worsening of emotional symptoms. Longitudinal studies with fine-grained hormonal measurement as well as hormonal experiments are needed to determine the pathophysiology of perimenstrual exacerbation in BPD.
Women who experience significant premenstrual symptoms differ in the extent to which these symptoms cause cyclical impairment. This study clarifies the type and number of symptoms that best predict premenstrual impairment in a sample of women undergoing prospective assessment for premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) in a research setting. Central research goals were to determine (1) which emotional, psychological, and physical symptoms of PMDD are uniquely associated with premenstrual impairment, and (2) how many cyclical symptoms optimally predict the presence of a clinically significant premenstrual elevation of impairment.
A total of 267 naturally cycling women recruited for retrospective report of premenstrual emotional symptoms completed daily symptom reports using the Daily Record of Severity of Problems (DRSP) and occupational, recreational, and relational impairment for 1–4 menstrual cycles (N = 563 cycles).
Multilevel regression revealed that emotional, psychological, and physical symptoms differ in their associations with impairment. The core emotional symptoms of PMDD were predictors of impairment, but not after accounting for secondary psychological symptoms, which were the most robust predictors. The optimal number of premenstrual symptoms for predicting clinically significant premenstrual impairment was four.
Results enhance our understanding of the type and number of premenstrual symptoms associated with premenstrual impairment among women being evaluated for PMDD in research contexts. Additional work is needed to determine whether cognitive symptoms should receive greater attention in the study of PMDD, and to revisit the usefulness of the five-symptom diagnostic threshold.
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