PDAs Aid Communication with Borderline Personality Disorder Patients

December 5, 2008
Chris Cole

When used as electronic diaries for recording and analyzing mood variability in patients with borderline personality disorder (BPD), personal digital assistants (PDAs), or handhelds, help bridge a gap in communication between therapists and patients, according to the results of a recent University of Missouri study.

PDAs Aid Communication with Borderline Personality Disorder Patients When used as electronic diaries for recording and analyzing mood variability in patients with borderline personality disorder (BPD), personal digital assistants (PDAs), or handhelds, help bridge a gap in communication between therapists and patients, according to the results of a recent University of Missouri study.

“In the clinical setting, patients are not good at assessing their mood retrospectively,” said Tim Trull, professor of psychology, College of Arts and Science. “Previously, we asked BPD patients to recall and describe when a mood change occurred. This description could vary greatly depending on the patient’s current state of mind and how comfortable the patient felt with the therapist. Electronic diaries help solve this problem by requiring that the patient reflect on and rate the degree to which a specific mood is present at that moment. At the same time, the device does not require that the individual makes a decision about when a mood change has occurred.”

Participants in the University of Missouri study—one group of patients with BPD and one with depressive disorders—carried electronic diaries for a month and were prompted randomly up to six times each day to rate their mood on a 1-5 scale. Although those with BPD did not display significantly different overall levels of positive or negative moods, the group as a whole did show significant variability in these moods throughout the month, more instability, and extreme changes across successive occasions.

“We may not have known the extent of the mood variability in the BPD patients without the assistance of the Palm Pilots, and the potential use of the device in psychological therapy is very exciting,” Trull said. “Eventually, programmed Palm Pilots may act as proxy therapists and provide patients with advice on coping skills and other therapeutic interventions, as problems occur in patients’ natural environment.”

More on Handheld Use in Psychiatry

Handheld Computer Use in a Psychiatric Outreach Program

Personal Digital Assistants in Psychiatric Education

Psychiatry PDA References from Skyscape