To thine own self be true: interoceptive accuracy and interpersonal problems

Wendy D’Andrea, Nadia Nieves, Treva Van Cleave

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background: Borderline Personality Disorder involves strong interpersonal disruptions, often associated with early maltreatment. However, the individual capacities which alter BPD-related interpersonal problems are unclear. Here, we examine two contributors to interpersonal functioning: interoceptive accuracy and parasympathetic activity. Interoceptive accuracy is the ability to correctly perceive body states, such as how quickly one’s heart is beating, and has been associated with emotional experience and various crucial social capacities. Similarly, parasympathetic activity is related to social processing and inhibition of impulses. As such, both may contribute to BPD interpersonal symptoms, albeit different types of interpersonal problems. Method: Sixty-five individuals completed the Inventory of Interpersonal Problems and the Millon Clinical Multiaxial Inventory followed by a task to assess interoceptive accuracy, the heart rate monitoring task, in which participants counted their heartbeats while concurrent physiological data was recorded; and an assessment of vagal tone, used as an index of regulatory flexibility. Results: Participants who reported poor interpersonal boundaries, consistent with borderline personality disorder styles, had worse interoception, whereas those high in aggression had lower vagal tone. Borderline personality symptoms overall were related to IA and significantly to vagal tone. Conclusions: These findings suggest that interoceptive accuracy is associated with interpersonal problems, where people are overly influenced or enmeshed with others, possibly to compensate for the absence of their physical and emotional awareness.

Original languageEnglish
Article number6
JournalBorderline Personality Disorder and Emotion Dysregulation
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Borderline personality disorder
  • Interoception
  • Interpersonal problems
  • Vagal tone


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