Chronic feelings of emptiness in a large undergraduate sample: Starting to fill the void

Jacob A. Martin, Kenneth N. Levy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Chronic emptiness in borderline personality disorder (BPD) has received little empirical attention. We sought to examine basic properties of a single chronic emptiness item, including prevalence, reliability, validity, the relation of the emptiness item to other BPD criteria, and measures of personality. Undergraduates enrolled in psychology courses over 12 years' time completed the McLean Screening Instrument for Borderline Personality Disorder (MSI-BPD) (N = 22,217). Subsets of participants completed the International Personality Disorder Examination—Screening Questionnaire (IPDE-SQ) (N = 2732), The Revised NEO Personality Inventory (Anxiety, Angry Hostility, Depression, Positive Emotions [reversed], and Impulsivity facets) (N = 10,506), and the Depression Anxiety Stress Scales (DASS) (N = 1110) as validity indicators; 10.0% of respondents endorsed emptiness. Reliability indices suggested moderate levels of reliability between two emptiness items (r(2730) = 0.61, p < 0.001). Among BPD criteria, emptiness and identity disturbance correlated most strongly (r(22,215) = 0.81, p < 0.001). MSI emptiness was more correlated with depression on the NEO (r(10,504) = 0.43, p < 0.001) and DASS (r(1108) = 0.51, p < 0.001) than other facets of negative affect. Emptiness was more correlated with greater borderline pathology than any other MSI-BPD item (Sample 1, rtet = 0.87; Sample 2, rtet = 0.86). This criterion warrants further study and attention, especially related to assessment of BPD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)190-203
Number of pages14
JournalPersonality and Mental Health
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Phychiatric Mental Health
  • Health Policy
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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