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Q: Aversive tension ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   0 Comments )
Subject: Aversive tension
Category: Health
Asked by: gatt-ga
List Price: $20.00
Posted: 18 Jun 2005 12:27 PDT
Expires: 18 Jul 2005 12:27 PDT
Question ID: 534603
Could someone please explain to me what is meant by 'aversive tension'
especially in relation to borderline personality disorder?

Thank you
Subject: Re: Aversive tension
Answered By: raisingmyhand-ga on 20 Jun 2005 01:23 PDT
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
and thanks for an interesting question. 

The term "aversive tension" is one that has been used mostly by German
researchers in the mental health field to describe an emotional state
(a feeling) that anyone can get, but that may be especially important
in people with borderline personality disorder. The actual term comes
from the German word "Spannung" and could also be translated into the
English word "stress" instead of tension, but the point is that it is
a very unpleasant mood or inner, emotional state. This term is used by
a research group in Freiburg, Germany and is not otherwise widely used
to describe the emotional state of people with borderline personality
disorder; others use terms like "dysphoria" or just "tension."

Based on my reading of several articles from the German reasearchers,
there are several parts to a person's experience of "aversive

1. The person has an experience of inner tension. This tension is a
feeling of arousal or stress that is very unpleasant.  The feeling of
stress can be triggered by experiences like frustration, loneliness,
rejection, failure, or helplessness.
2. The person feels this unpleasant tension but s/he does not feel any
other clear emotions like fear, anxiety, guilt or anger at the same
3. The person who is affected feels a strong urge to end the
unpleasant inner state.

In people with borderline personality disorder, the feeling of tension
usually lasts longer and is more intense than it would in a mentally
healthy person. The feeling can get worse and worse until the person
takes an action to end the feeling, for example they might hurt
themselves in hopes that pain will end the unpleasant emotional state.
A person may engage in self-harm or self-mutilation (not suicide) to
get relief from the tension/stress.

One of the major features of borderline personality disorder is a
problem in regulating the emotional state. It is believed that many of
the features of borderline personality disorder are due to the intense
and prolonged feelings of aversive tension. For example, mental health
researchers have found that aversive tension can be a trigger for
dissociation in people with borderline personality disorder. For
example, feelings of being distant or detached from one's body or from
the world.

One problems with the idea of "aversive tension" is the fact that one
person's aversive tension may be quite different from another person's
experience of aversive tension. There does not seem to be a very exact
definition or way to identify this feeling. However, if people are
able to observe their own emotional state they may be able to
recognize something they would identify as aversive tension. The
promising thing about this work is that it suggests that successful
treatment of borderline personality disorder might come from helping
patients deal with their aversive tension.

I hope this is helpful and answers your question. Please let me know
if there's anything I can try to clarify for you. Regards,

1. Experience of aversive tension and dissociation in female patients
with borderline personality disorder ? a controlled study. Christian
E. Stiglmayr, David A. Shapiro, Rolf D. Stieglitz, Matthias F.
Limberger and Martin Bohus. Journal of Psychiatric Research. Volume
35, Issue 2 , March-April 2001, Pages 111-118.

2. Aversive tension in patients with borderline personality disorder:
a computer-based controlled field study. C. E. Stiglmayr, T.
Grathwol1, M. M. Linehan, G. Ihorst, J. Fahrenberg, M. Bohus. Acta
Psychiatrica Scandinavica Volume 111 Issue 5 Page 372. May 2005.

Search strategy: 
PubMed search: aversive tension (with password access to online
journal articles).
gatt-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars and gave an additional tip of: $5.00
Thank you for your clear and  helpful answer

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