INTRODUCTION: Over time, there have been different views regarding the verbal auditory hallucinations (VAHs) reported by borderline personality disorder (BPD) and schizophrenia patients. More recently, their similarity has been emphasized, a view that undoubtedly has significant implications in terms of differential diagnosis and management. To explore this important issue, we undertook a detailed phenomenological assessment of persistent VAH reported by BPD and schizophrenia DSM-IV participants. METHODS: The Psychotic Symptoms Rating Scale (PSYRATS), the Revised Beliefs About Voices Questionnaire (BAVQ-R), the Multidimensional Scale for Hallucinations (MSH), and a detailed clinical interview were administered to 11 BPD and 10 schizophrenia DSM-IV participants. RESULTS: The VAHs of both groups were similar regarding intensity, reported as located inside or outside the head, and frequency in which they were described as a third-person phenomenon. However, the patients' stance towards their VAH was clearly different. Whilst BPD patients identified them in a clear way in terms of gender and age and disliked them, schizophrenia patients identified them more vaguely, reported them both as more disruptive but at the same time engaged with them more positively; schizophrenia patients also integrated their VAH more into delusions. DISCUSSION: Whilst reporting similar intensity of their VAH, the 2 groups' stance towards them were strikingly different in that BPD participants regarded them as identifiable and unequivocally unpleasant whilst schizophrenia participants regarded them in a rather vague and ambiguous manner. Methodologically, this preliminary study suggests that in-depth phenomenological assessment can help to elucidate the differential diagnosis of VAH in these, possibly other, clinical groups. Further research is warranted to establish whether these preliminary findings are replicated on a bigger clinical sample.
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Borderline personality disorder, Differential diagnosis, Phenomenology, Schizophrenia, Verbal auditory hallucinations