Oxytocin administration attenuates stress reactivity in borderline personality disorder: A pilot study

D. Simeon, J. Bartz, H. Hamilton, S. Crystal, A. Braun, S. Ketay, E. Hollander

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

124 Scopus citations


Oxytocin has known stress-reducing and attachment-enhancing effects. We thus hypothesized that oxytocin would attenuate emotional and hormonal responses to stress in borderline personality disorder (BPD). Fourteen BPD and 13 healthy control (HC) adults received 40IU intranasal oxytocin or placebo in double-blind randomized order followed by the Trier Social Stress Test. Subjective dysphoria (Profile of Mood Changes) and plasma cortisol levels were measured. Childhood trauma history, attachment style, and self-esteem were also rated. A significant " Group × Drug × Time" interaction effect for dysphoria (p=.04) reflected a proportionately greater attenuation of stress-induced dysphoria in the BPD group after oxytocin administration. Additionally, a marginally significant " Group × Drug" interaction effect for cortisol (p=.10) reflected a tendency toward greater attenuation of the stress-induced cortisol surge in the BPD group after oxytocin administration. In the combined sample, the oxytocin-placebo difference in the emotional stress reactivity was significantly predicted by childhood trauma alone (p=.037) and combined with self-esteem (p=.030), whereas the oxytocin-placebo difference in cortisol stress reactivity was predicted only by insecure attachment (p=.013). Results suggest that oxytocin may have a beneficial impact on emotional regulation in BPD, which merits further investigation and could have important treatment implications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1418-1421
Number of pages4
Issue number9
StatePublished - Oct 2011


  • Attachment
  • Borderline personality disorder
  • Childhood trauma
  • Cortisol
  • Emotion
  • HPA axis
  • Neuropeptides
  • Oxytocin
  • Stress
  • Trier social stress test

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Endocrinology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry


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