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Social proximity typically helps individuals meet their belongingness needs, but several forms of psychopathology, including borderline and avoidant personality disorders (BPD and APD, respectively) are characterized by social difficulties. This experience-sampling study is one of the first to directly investigate the affective reactions of individuals with BPD and APD (compared with healthy controls [HC]) to social proximity in daily life. We examined both person-level and day-level reactions. At the person level, the rate of social proximity across the diary period was associated with diminished feelings of rejection, isolation, shame, and dissociation in the HC group. In contrast, it was not associated with any affective reaction in the BPD group, and was associated with decreased rejection and isolation on the one hand, but also with increased anxiety in the APD group. At the day level, we used multilevel regression to examine affective reactions when in social proximity. The HC group showed a consistent benefit when in social proximity. In contrast, both PD groups exhibited mixed affective reactions to social proximity; specifically, benefits (increased positive affect, decreased rejection, isolation, and dissociation) were interspersed with costs (increased shame for both PD groups; increased anger for BPD; increased anxiety for APD). The mixed reactions found in both PDs may contribute to the disturbed relationships of individuals with these disorders.



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