The mental health issue known as Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is complex and often difficult to understand. It is not helped by the fact that it shares the common feature of extreme mood swings with Bipolar Disorder, making them easy to confuse, even though they are not the same.
Borderline Personality Disorder: What is it?
The DSM-V defines Borderline Personality Disorder as “a pervasive pattern of instability of interpersonal relationships, self-image, and affects, and marked impulsivity, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts as indicated by five (or more) of the following:”
- Black and white attitude or a failure to see any middle ground
- Rapid and extreme mood swings
- Lack of empathy for others
- Characteristic impulsivity in more than one activity that carries a potential risk
- A pattern of instability in relationships ranging from love to hate
- Fear (whether real or imagined) of abandonment and extreme efforts to avoid it
- Characteristically improper self-image or sense of self
- Persistent suicidal behavior, threats, or gestures
- Anger issues
- Persistently feeling empty
- Symptoms of dissociation
What causes BPD?
Like with many mental health issues, researchers and therapists are not sure what causes Borderline Personality Disorder. However, research indicates that there may be some connection between a person’s biology and their personal history or present situation.
Some factors which may be partly responsible for bringing on Borderline Personality Disorder are:
Family history of BPD
Studies have shown that a person whose parent(s) or sibling(s) have Borderline Personality Disorder has much greater odds developing it themselves.
Scientists have long recognized that certain parts of the brain are the seat of various kinds of emotions and exercise control over our impulses. Quite often, those with Borderline Personality Disorder also suffer from poor impulse control and emotional troubles. Researchers are not sure whether the brain issues are a result of the disorder or the cause.
History of trauma
Though having experienced trauma doesn’t necessarily mean that a person will develop Borderline Personality Disorder, it has become clear that Borderline Personality Disorder often correlates with past trauma. The trauma can be of any kind, including, but not limited to accidents, neglect or abuse, separation, or abandonment.
The sad truth is that Borderline Personality Disorder carries with it a stigma. In fact, some consider it to be more stigmatized than any other mental health issue. People often view those with Borderline Personality Disorder as being manipulative, attention-grabbing, or resistant to treatment.
Because of the stigma, many who need it never pursue treatment. This may be a direct result of the stigma itself, or it may be due to the stigma attached to a negative or failed treatment experience. For this reason, it is crucial to seek out therapists who are specially trained to help people who have Borderline Personality Disorder.
Many who suffer from Borderline Personality Disorder engage in behavior referred to as non-suicidal self-injury, or NSSI. Unlike with suicidal tendencies, a person who engages in NSSI is not attempting to commit suicide.
People engage in self-harm for a variety of reasons, such as exercising control, getting their mind off of their situation, a desire to feel anything rather than numbness, a means of dealing with intense emotions, or even a sense of euphoria. Even though it is not the same as suicide, it is critical to take self-harm very seriously. Of course, any actual suicidal threats should be taken seriously as well.
Treating Borderline Personality Disorder
It should come as no surprise that there is no magic cure-all for Borderline Personality Disorder. For those who seek help from a qualified mental health professional, the treatment they receive may help to reduce or even alleviate their symptoms.
A proper diagnosis is critical as well as an accurate determination of the level of care that will be needed. Are office visits sufficient, or will medication or more intensive care be needed? Once these questions are answered, the following treatment options may be considered.
Dialectal Behavior Therapy (DBT) is probably the most well-known and commonly used method to treat Borderline Personality Disorder. It teaches the person to become more mindful as they learn emotional regulation, distress tolerance, radical openness, and interpersonal effectiveness. Group therapy can be especially helpful since the patient will be able to learn and practice all of these techniques in a group setting.
A DBT intensive program is a good option for those that qualify. However, it requires a large time commitment that not everyone will be able to commit to. Consultation between sessions may be required to deal with occasional issues that come up and most of these programs offer them.
Although no medication exists at this time to treat Borderline Personality Disorder, some medications can help to treat symptoms of concurrent conditions such as anxiety or depression. Antidepressants, antipsychotics, and mood stabilizers can be successfully employed.
Short hospitalization may be required for those who engage in self-harm or who have suicidal thoughts or tendencies. Those who have been diagnosed with BPD may find themselves spending a lot of time in emergency rooms or in psychiatric hospitals.
What is Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)?
Psychology Today the best explanation of DBT.
“Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) provides clients with new skills to manage painful emotions and decrease conflict in relationships. DBT specifically focuses on providing therapeutic skills in four key areas. First, mindfulness focuses on improving an individual’s ability to accept and be present in the current moment. Second, distress tolerance is geared toward increasing a person’s tolerance of negative emotion, rather than trying to escape from it. Third, emotion regulation covers strategies to manage and change intense emotions that are causing problems in a person’s life. Fourth, interpersonal effectiveness consists of techniques that allow a person to communicate with others in a way that is assertive, maintains self-respect, and strengthens relationships.”
Borderline Personality Disorder is not easy to treat, but it is helpful to remember that there is hope. If a person seeks help it is possible to recover and get relief from their symptoms when the proper treatment is employed. If you or someone you know is suffering from Borderline Personality Disorder, get help today. A new life awaits!
Feel free to browse our online counselor directory to find a counselor qualified to meet your needs.
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