What is Borderline Personality Disorder
Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is a serious mental illness that negatively affects moods, relationships, and behavior. The American Psychiatric Association recognizes it as one of several personality disorders. Other personality disorders include narcissistic personality disorder, antisocial personality disorder, and obsessive-compulsive personality disorder.
BPD is characterized by an inability to regulate emotion. As a result, people with BPD will often depict patterns of instability in interpersonal relationships and self-image, extreme and severe mood swings, often with aggression, and recklessness and impulsivity. Individuals with BPD will experience anger, anxiety, and depression episodes that last between a few hours to a few days.
BPD can severely affect the sufferer’s ability to live a happy, fulfilling life.
Symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder
Although BPD manifests in many different ways, there are a few key symptoms that mental health professionals look out for in order to make a diagnosis. Furthermore, symptoms must have occurred for a very long period, such as since adolescence far into adulthood. They should also impact many areas of the person’s life.
Symptoms of BPD include:
People with BPD tend to engage in impulsive behavior without regard for their safety or personal and social wellbeing. These behaviors include substance abuse, reckless spending habits in the form of shopping sprees, engaging in promiscuous, unprotected sex, binge eating, and self-harming behaviors like cutting and suicide attempts.
A lack of emotional regulation is one of the primary features of BPD. Intense mood swings occur often and can last from minutes to hours to just a few days. This is in contrast to depression or bipolar disorder, where these episodes last for very long periods. The emotional instability of a BPD sufferer can be likened to an emotional rollercoaster, with small, seemingly meaningless events causing extreme reactions. People with BPD usually have a very short temper and are prone to rages and being entirely consumed by intense anger for even minor things.
People with BPD usually have very intense, short-lived relationships characterized by explosive fights, breakups, and frequent conflicts. Because BPD is associated with a fear of abandonment, attempts to avoid perceived abandonment can be intense and lead to difficulty trusting. Emotions within relationships will also change rapidly and in the extreme, with the person feeling as if they are madly in love one day but hating them the next.
The self-image of a person with BPD is also subject to instability. One day they will feel happy and good about themselves, but the next, they may feel unattractive and filled with feelings of self-loathing.
It is important to note that not everyone with BPD will experience every symptom associated with the disorder. Symptoms are often triggered by seemingly ordinary events and will almost always be extreme.
What Causes Borderline Personality Disorder
It is not yet clear what causes or increases the risk of BPD, although there is some evidence that genes, brain structure, and environmental, cultural, and social factors may play a role.
- Hereditary factors: Those with an immediate blood relative with BPD may be predisposed to developing it.
- Brain chemistry: Some people with BPD have structural and functional changes in the brain, particularly in the areas that control emotional regulation and impulse control.
- Environmental, social, and cultural factors: Some people with BPD have reported experiencing traumatic life events in the form of abandonment or abuse – especially during childhood.
All these factors may increase a person’s risk of developing BPD, but they do not mean that it is unavoidable. Alternately, there are people who have not been exposed to any of these risk factors that still go on to develop BPD.
Diagnosing Borderline Personality Disorder
Due to the adverse effects on personal and social safety and wellbeing, BPD should be properly diagnosed and treated by a qualified mental health professional. If left untreated, the individual may harm themselves or put themselves in a situation that can be harmful and even life-threatening.
In order to diagnose BPD, the individual’s symptoms will be evaluated, and their medical history reviewed. The doctor may also perform physical exams and blood tests to ensure that no medical illnesses are contributing to the symptoms.
To be diagnosed with BPD, the person needs to experience at least five of the following symptoms in various contexts:
- Extreme efforts to avoid abandonment
- Frequent, recurring emotional instability
- Feelings of emptiness
- Problems with self-image
- Impulsive and reckless behaviors
- Intense, uncontrollable anger
- Unstable relationships
- Suicidal thoughts and self-harming behaviors
- Transient paranoid or dissociative symptoms
The medical practitioner will need to work closely with the individual to rule out any other personality disorders and bipolar disorder to reach an accurate diagnosis of BPD.
Treatment for BPD
In the past, experts believed that BPD was not treatable. Fortunately, research now shows that treatment is possible. With consistent help from a mental health professional, it is possible for those with BPD to live a better quality of life with fewer symptoms.
Common types of treatment options for BPD include:
- Psychotherapy: This is the primary treatment for BPD and is usually most beneficial when continued throughout the afflicted’s lifetime. Types of psychotherapy targeted to treat BPD include dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), mentalization-based treatment, and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).
- Medications: Medications are used to treat the symptoms of BPD. Often, antidepressants are prescribed, as well as mood stabilizers.
If symptoms are severe and the patient is at risk of hurting themselves, an inpatient stay at a mental health facility may be required.
Get Help Today
If you are worried that you or a loved one are suffering from BPD, help is possible. With the proper, tailored treatment, people with BPD can lead normal, fulfilling lives.
Here at Addiction Rehab Treatment, we specialize in assisting individuals concerned about their own or a loved one’s substance use and mental health. Get in touch with us today so we can help you on the right track to recovery. Our treatment navigators can guide you to the right treatment facility, whether for mental illness, substance abuse, or both disorders occurring together.