Wandering minds in attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and borderline personality disorder

Talar R Moukhtarian*, Iris Reinhard, Alfonso Morillas-Romero, Celine Ryckaert, Florence Mowlem, Natali Bozhilova, Paul Moran, Ulrich Ebner-Priemer, Philip Asherson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)
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Attention-deficit/hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and borderline personality disorder (BPD) have overlapping symptoms. We proposed that excessive spontaneous mind wandering (MW-S) might reflect a component of psychopathology that distinguishes ADHD from BPD. Using a questionnaire measure of MW-S and an experience sampling method, we investigated MW-S in daily life, in 28 ADHD, 19 BPD, 22 comorbid ADHD+BPD, and 29 control females. The clinical groups reported heightened frequency and intensity of MW-S compared to controls, but no differences from each other. When controlling for depression and anxiety, significant differences only persisted between controls and ADHD, who also showed elevated intensity of MW-S compared to BPD and comorbid ADHD+BPD. We found no MW-S instability differences amongst clinical cases as well as cases versus controls. Negative content of MW-S was higher in BPD and comorbid ADHD+BPD compared to controls, with no differences between ADHD and controls. When controlling for depression/anxiety, the differences between BPD and comorbid ADHD+BPD and controls dissipated. MW-S is a trans-diagnostic process present in both ADHD and BPD. Yet, the underlying mechanisms of this experience may be driven by anxiety/depression in BPD but reflect a core process in ADHD.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)98-109
Number of pages12
JournalEuropean Neuropsychopharmacology
Early online date20 Jul 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2020

Bibliographical note

Copyright © 2020. Published by Elsevier B.V.


  • Mind wandering
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder
  • Borderline personality disorder
  • Experience sampling method


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