The Underuse and Overuse of Character Strengths in Borderline Personality Disorder Symptoms
Aristotle introduced the concept of a golden mean in the Nicomachean Ethics and defined virtues as a state of character balanced between excess and deficiency and that activities consistent with virtues lead to eudaemonia. The idea of well-being as a golden mean of virtues simultaneously implies a model of psychopathology as overuse or underuse of virtues. The purpose of the current study was to extend a novel line of research conceptualizing psychopathology as the misuse of character strengths (Niemiec, 2014) and identify a profile of overuse and underuse of character strengths and BPD symptoms. Two hundred and fifteen adults (33% female; M = 36.88, SD = 11.21) were recruited through Amazon Mechanical Turk (MTurk), an online recruitment tool run through Amazon.com. Participants completed self-report measures assessing BPD symptoms, underuse, overuse, and optimal use of character strengths, depression, and flourishing. Linear regressions were used to investigate whether the overuse and underuse of specific character strengths statistically predicted BPD symptoms. Consistent with hypotheses, the underuse of kindness, authenticity, self-regulation, prudence, perspective, and intimacy, along with the overuse of social intelligence, judgment, bravery, curiosity, and zest were independently associated with increased BPD symptoms. A unique profile of underuse and overuse of character strengths and symptoms of BPD was identified; underuse of kindness and authenticity, along with the overuse of curiosity predicted increased BPD symptoms while controlling for depression. This study provided evidence for the optimal use of character strengths predicting flourishing, supportive of Aristotle’s conceptualization of a golden mean of virtue expression resulting in eudaemonia. In addition, the underuse and overuse of specific character strengths statistically predicted BPD symptoms and provided support for Niemiec’s (2014) OUOU model. This suggests a unique profile of underuse of authenticity and kindness, along with the overuse of curiosity, is associated with increased BPD symptoms. Future research and clinical implications are discussed.
Seligman, Nicole, "The Underuse and Overuse of Character Strengths in Borderline Personality Disorder Symptoms" (2023). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI28774578.