Borderline Personality Disorder

What is Borderline Personality Disorder?

Borderline personality disorder is a serious and complex mental illness that is seen primarily in adults between the ages of 18 and 35. Borderline personality disorder, or BPD, is marked by ongoing patterns of varying moods, self-image, and behavior. Mood instability, impulsivity, fear of being alone or abandoned and poor self-image are common traits and symptoms of borderline personality disorder.

An estimated 1.4% of adults in the United States experience BPD.  Almost 75% of them that are diagnosed are women. More research has shown that men may be affected by borderline personality disorder at about the same rate as women, but are often misdiagnosed with other mental health disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder or depression.

Symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder

Individuals with borderline personality disorder often experience intense episodes of depression, anger, and anxiety that can last from a few hours to days. Mood swings and uncertainty about how they see themselves and their role in the world are common. Because of this, their interests, behaviors, habits, and values can change quickly. 

Individuals with BPD view things in extremes. Because of this, their opinions of people can change quickly. Their relationships are often unstable because of their shifting feelings. Usually, things are either all good or all bad – there is no in-between. 

Additional Signs and Symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder include:

  • Distorted self-image that influences their decision making, mood, and priorities
  • Efforts to avoid abandonment, such as initiating intimate relationships very quickly or cutting someone out of their life in anticipation of perceived abandonment
  • Feeling bored, irritable, restless, or empty a large majority of the time
  • Patterns of intense, unstable relationships with family, friends, and loved ones. These relationships are also held to extremes and can swing between deep admiration and idealization to intense dislike or anger. 
  • Impulsivity and dangerous behaviors such as spending sprees, unsafe sex, substance abuse, reckless driving, and binge eating. 
  • Consistent and recurring thoughts of suicide and/or suicide threats
  • Intense and highly changeable moods, with episodes lasting from hours to days
  • Self-harming behavior, which may include cutting
  • Intense, inappropriate anger and problems controlling anger  
  • Lack of trust in people, often questioning their intentions
  • Dissociation – feeling cut off from themselves or outside of their body

These symptoms may not describe everyone with borderline personality disorder. Some individuals only experience a few of these symptoms, while other individuals may experience all of them and more. In a person with BPD, everyday events can trigger symptoms. 

A person with borderline personality disorder may become angry over minor separations from a person with whom them feel close to or they may become enraged because of plans being changed.

Causes of Borderline Personality Disorder

The actual causes of borderline personality disorder are not fully understood.  Through research, scientists agree that this disorder is brought on by a number of factors, including:

  • Genetics: There is no specific gene or gene profile that directly causes BPD, but people who have a close family member with BPD are shown to be at a higher risk for developing this illness as well.
  • Environmental Factors: Traumatic life events, such as physical or sexual abuse during childhood, or neglect or separation from parents are environmental factors that cause BPD.
  • Brain Function: There are suggestions of a neurological basis for some of the symptoms brought on by BPD.  The emotional regulation system may be different in those with borderline personality disorder.  The parts of the brain that control emotions and decision-making/judgment may not communicate well with each other.

Diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder

While there is no definitive medical test to diagnose borderline personality disorder, the diagnosis is not based on one specific sign or symptom.  The best way to diagnose BPD is for a mental health professional to follow a comprehensive clinical interview that can involve communication with a patient’s previous clinicians, going over prior medical evaluations and, when appropriate, interviewing friends and family.

A borderline personality diagnosis is typically made in adults and not in children or teenagers.  The reason for this is because the appearance of BPD signs and symptoms in this particular age group may go away as they get older and begin to mature.

Treatment of Borderline Personality Disorder

 Typically, a licensed mental health professional can diagnose borderline personality disorder through a variety of methods including a thorough interview, a medical exam, and an overview of the individual’s medical history, as well as their family’s medical history.  

Borderline personality disorder is typically found in individuals with other mental illnesses including anxiety disordersdepression, substance-use disorder, eating disorders, and bipolar disorder.  In co-occurring disorders, when BPD is successfully treated, the other disorders often improve, too.  The reverse is not always true. For example, you can have success in treating symptoms of depression, but still struggle with borderline personality disorder. 

In the past, borderline personality disorder has been viewed as difficult to treat. However, new, evidence-based treatment methods and modalities have been utilized in the treatment of BPD over the last several years and individuals report fewer and less severe symptoms.  

Medications are generally not effective for the treatment of BPD. Thus, an individual will be most successful through a variety of therapeutic approaches that may include dialectical behavior therapy, psychotherapy, and cognitive behavioral therapy. 

An individual with BPD must develop a trusting relationship with a therapist who specializes in borderline personality disorder treatment.  The guidance and support that an individual receives from a qualified therapist makes a significant difference in BPD treatment and recovery. Therapy can be a safe place to start working on their relationship and trust issues. It can also serve as a time to develop new healthy coping techniques.

It’s important that an individual with BPD receives treatment for their disorder. The majority of experts believe that receiving therapy on a weekly basis that involves educating the person about the disorder, receiving family support, and social and emotional skills training can treat several cases of borderline personality disorder.  

Studies have shown that people with BPD who don’t receive treatment are more likely to develop other chronic medical or mental health disorders. Individuals with borderline personality disorder are also at a higher risk of self-harm and suicidal behavior. For those individuals who have been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, seeking help can be beneficial.

At Renewal Behavioral Health, we treat a wide variety of mental health disorders and can help you restore a sense of control to your life. Contact us today to learn more about how Renewal Behavioral Health can help you heal.