What is Borderline Personality Disorder?
Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a condition characterized by impulsivity and emotional instability. People who struggle with this condition can experience sudden mood swings, black and white thinking, and difficulties in exercising control over their emotional responses.
Although borderline personality disorder typically occurs during adulthood, there are cases when this condition can begin to manifest during adolescence. It’s also the most common personality disorder, affecting 1-2% of the general population.
Since people with borderline personality disorder have a hard time keeping their emotions under control, they are often in a state of anger and revolt.
On top of that, their self-image is profoundly distorted, making them feel worthless and fundamentally imperfect. Although they crave human connection and affectionate relationships, people with BPD often fail to cultivate long-term relationships because their anger, impulsivity, and lack of emotional control, can quickly drive people away.
Fortunately, decades of scientific studies have helped mental health professionals gain a better understanding of this condition and design effective intervention strategies. Current research indicates that, by following proper intervention strategies, people with borderline personality disorder can enjoy a happy and fulfilled life.
Signs of Borderline Personality Disorder
The critical element of borderline personality disorder is a pattern characterized by instability in interpersonal relationships, as well as impulsivity.
- Sustained effort to avoid real or imaginary abandonment
- Pattern of unstable relationships, alternating between idealization and devaluation
- Frequent emotional swings
- Impulsive and risky behaviors such as unprotected sex, dangerous driving, compulsive gambling
- Intense but short episodes of anxiety or depression
- Uncontrollable anger
- Fear of being alone
- Chronic sensation of emptiness
During stressful periods, people with borderline personality disorder can experience psychotic symptoms such as paranoid thinking and hallucinations. On top of that, BPD can also be accompanied by other conditions such as depression, eating disorders, PTSD, and anxiety.
How is Borderline Personality Disorder Treated?
Treating borderline personality disorder can be challenging. The intensity of the symptoms, coupled with emotional and behavioral instability represent serious obstacles that can delay recovery.
Treatment will typically involve both medication and a long-term therapeutic process that helps the person acquire healthy coping strategies and develop emotional stability.
Although there are no pharmacological treatments explicitly designed for borderline personality disorder, psychiatrists often prescribe medication for related conditions such as anxiety, depression, and impulsivity.
Medication – in combination with therapy – can help stabilize emotions, reduce impulsive behaviors, relieve psychotic symptoms, or treat other conditions that are associated with borderline personality disorder.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) are the most widely used therapeutic approaches for borderline personality disorder.
In fact, dialectical behavior therapy was explicitly designed for borderline personality and is usually delivered through individual or group sessions.
With the help of a licensed therapist or counselor, people with BPD can learn how to control their emotional reactions, tolerate unpleasant feelings, improve relationships, and cultivate stability in all the critical areas of life.
WHEN TO SEE A MENTAL HEALTH PROFESSIONAL
Mental health issues are real, common, and treatable. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) 1 in 5 adults experience mental illness and 20% of those are considered serious. 17% of 6-17 year olds experience a mental health disorder. So the first thing to remember is this: You are not alone.
If you feel that you are suffering from a mental illness, and particularly if those issues are preventing you from living life to the full or feeling yourself, you may want to consider professional help which can make an enormous difference.
And to be clear, you don't need to be going through a crisis in order to justify getting help. In fact, it can be advantageous from a treatment perspective to identify and deal with issues early and before they have a major impact on your life. Either way you should feel encouraged and able to seek help however you are feeling.
Mental health professionals such as licensed therapist can help in a range of ways including:
- Help you identify where, when, and how issues arise
- Develop coping strategies for specific symptoms and issues
- Encourage resilience and self-management
- Identify and change negative behaviors
- Identify and encourage positive behaviors
- Heal pain from past trauma
- Figure out goals and waypoints
- Build self-confidence
Treatment for mental health issues, and psychotherapy (sometimes known as 'talk therapy') in particular, frequently helps people to feel better, manage, and even get rid of their symptoms. For example, did you know that over 80% of people treated for depression materially improve? Or that treatment for panic disorder has a 90% success rate?
Other treatment options include medication which, in some cases, can be highly effective when administered in combination with psychotherapy.
So what is psychotherapy? It involves talking about your problems and concerns with a mental health professional. It can take lots of forms, including individual, group, couples and family sessions. Often, people see their therapists once a week for 50 minutes to start with and then reducing frequency as time goes on and issues subside. Treatment can be as short as a few weeks or as long as a few years depending on your particular situation and response.
Never think that getting help is a sign of weakness. It isn't. In fact, it can be a sign of strength and maturity to take the steps necessary to becoming you again and getting your life back on track.
WHEN TO GET EMERGENCY HELP
Are you in distress? If so, or if you think that you may hurt yourself or attempt suicide, call 911 or your local emergency number immediately.
Also consider these options if you're having suicidal thoughts:
- Call your mental health specialist.
- Call a suicide hotline number — in the U.S., call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255).
- Seek help from your primary doctor or other health care provider.
- Reach out to a close friend or loved one.
- Contact a minister, spiritual leader or someone else in your faith community.
If a loved one or friend is in danger of attempting suicide or has made an attempt:
- Make sure someone stays with that person.
- Call 911 or your local emergency number immediately.
- Or, if you can do so safely, take the person to the nearest hospital emergency room.