Auditory hallucinations: a comparison of beliefs about voices in individuals with schizophrenia and borderline personality disorder

Catherine Ashcroft, Claire Hepworth, David Kingdon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: Individuals with borderline personality disorder (BPD) may experience distressing auditory hallucinations, phenomenologically similar to those seen in psychosis. However, access to effective intervention is limited. The cognitive model of auditory hallucinations highlights the role of appraisals in maintaining distress. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) that targets such beliefs has shown efficacy in psychosis. This study examined appraisals about voices in individuals with psychosis and those with BPD to establish whether CBT for voices might have clinical utility for those with BPD.

Methods: Participants included 45 patients with distressing auditory hallucinations, recruited from the National Health Service. All participants received a structured clinical diagnostic interview and the Beliefs about Voices Questionnaire. Ten participants met criteria for BPD (22%), 23 met criteria for a diagnosis of schizophrenia (51%) and 12 met criteria for both disorders (27%).

Results: Multivariate analyses confirmed that there were no group differences in beliefs about the malevolence or omnipotence of voices, or in behavioural resistance or engagement. Those with BPD and those with both diagnoses reported significantly greater emotional resistance than those with schizophrenia. Those with schizophrenia reported significantly greater emotional engagement with their voices.

Conclusion: Auditory hallucinations in psychosis and BPD do not differ in their phenomenology or cognitive responses (beliefs about the power and malevolence of their dominant voice). The main differential appears to be the affective response. CBT that focuses on appraisals and the relationship with voices may be helpful for distressing auditory hallucinations in individuals with BPD as well as psychosis.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)239-45
Number of pages6
JournalClinical Psychology and Psychotherapy
Issue number3
Early online date4 Oct 2011
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2013

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