Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (Clinical)


University of Wollongong. School of Psychology


Intolerance of aloneness may be considered a core feature of borderline personality disorder (BPD) that potentially underlies a range of symptoms. Proposed as a DSM-III diagnostic criterion, surprisingly, only one empirical study has investigated aloneness in BPD (Richman & Sokolove, 1992) and none have examined the actual experience of individuals with BPD when alone. This thesis extends the understanding and operationalisation of this experience. Transcripts from qualitative interviews with 12 participants with BPD were analysed using a phenomenological approach based on Giorgi’s method (1985). The essence of negative time alone was broadly characterised by either depression and lethargy, or by conflicting thoughts and escalating distress, and was frantically avoided. Positive time alone was felt as relief from the intrusive demands and insecurities of relating, and was craved. Study I findings formed the basis of a self-report time alone scale administered in an online questionnaire battery in Study II. Responses from 112 individuals with BPD revealed a three factor structure to the questionnaire: (a) Cannot Cope Alone, (b) Need toEscape from Others, and (c) Consumed in Intolerable Distress. All three subscales had very good to excellent internal consistency. Correlations with the Mental Health Inventory (Berwick et al., 1991), the Aloneness and Evocative Memory Scale (Richman, 1986) and the Hurvich Experiences Inventory- Revised (Hurvich, 1990) suggested good construct validity. A comparison with the BPD sample and 105 non-BPD controls showed very large differences between groups on all subscales and the total score, suggesting further investigation into aloneness in BPD is warranted.