Chronic feelings of emptiness in a large undergraduate sample: Starting to fill the void

Chronic emptiness in borderline personality disorder (BPD) has received little empirical attention. We sought to examine basic properties of a single chronic emptiness item, including prevalence, reliability, validity, the relation of the emptiness item to other BPD criteria, and measures of personality. Undergrad- uates enrolled in psychology courses over 12 years' time completed the McLean Screening Instrument for Borderline Personality Disorder (MSI-BPD) (N = 22,217). Subsets of participants completed the International Personality Disorder Examination—Screening Questionnaire (IPDE-SQ) (N = 2732), The Revised NEO Personality Inventory (Anxiety, Angry Hostility, Depression, Positive Emotions [reversed], and Impulsivity facets) (N = 10,506), and the Depression Anxiety Stress Scales (DASS) (N = 1110) as validity indicators; 10.0% of respondents endorsed emptiness. Reliability indices suggested moderate levels of reliability between two emptiness items (r(2730) = 0.61, p < 0.001). Among BPD criteria, emptiness and identity disturbance correlated most strongly (r(22,215) = 0.81, p < 0.001). MSI emptiness was more corre- lated with depression on the NEO (r(10,504) = 0.43, p < 0.001) and DASS (r(1108) = 0.51, p < 0.001) than other facets of negative affect. Emptiness was more correlated with greater borderline pathology than any other MSI-BPD item (Sample 1, rtet = 0.87; Sample 2, rtet = 0.86). This criterion warrants further study and attention, especially related to assessment of BPD.
Jacob A. Martin, Kenneth N. Levy


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