Scientific article
Open access

Body modifications in borderline personality disorder patients: prevalence rates, link with non-suicidal self-injury, and related psychopathology

Publication date2023-03-02
First online date2023-03-02


Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is a potentially severe personality disorder, characterized by difficulties in emotion regulation and control of behaviors. It is often associated with non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI). Borderline personality features have also been linked to body modifications (BMs). However, the prevalence of BMs, the link between BMs and NSSI, and between BMs and several psychopathology dimensions (e.g. borderline severity, emotion regulation, impulsivity …) remains understudied in patients with BPD. This study aims to fill this gap, and to provide further evidence on the link between NSSI and BMs.


We used data from a psychiatric outpatient center located in Switzerland ( n = 116), specialized in the assessment and treatment of BPD patients. Patients underwent several semi-structured interviews and self-report psychometric scales at the arrival, and the data were retrospectively analyzed.


We found that 70.69% of the patients had one piercing or more, and 69.83% were tattooed. The total score of body modifications and the total number of piercings score of piercings were significantly positively associated with NSSI and the SCID BPD total score. The association with the SCID score was mainly driven by the “suicide and self-damaging behaviors” item and the “chronic feeling of emptiness” item. A significant association was found between total number of piercings and emotion dysregulation. On the other hand, the self-reported percentage of body covered by tattoos score was specifically associated with the sensation seeking subscale of the UPPS-P.


This study provides evidence on the prevalence of BMs in BPD patients, and on the link between BMs and NSSI in this population, suggesting a role of emotion regulation in the link between both constructs. These results also suggests that tattoos and piercings may be differentially linked to specific underlying psychological mechanisms. This calls for further considerations of body modifications in the assessment and care of BPD patients.

  • BPD
  • Body modification
  • Borderline personality disorder
  • NSSI
  • Non-suicidal self-injury
  • Piercing
  • Tattoo
Citation (ISO format)
BLAY, Martin et al. Body modifications in borderline personality disorder patients: prevalence rates, link with non-suicidal self-injury, and related psychopathology. In: Borderline personality disorder and emotion dysregulation, 2023, vol. 10, n° 1, p. 7. doi: 10.1186/s40479-023-00213-4
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Article (Published version)
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ISSN of the journal2051-6673

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