Borderline personality disorder, or BPD, is a mental disorder defined by the National Institute of Mental Health as a mental illness in which people exhibit unstable behavior, moods and relationships. BPD affects 1.6 percent of American adults and is usually thought to manifest in early adulthood. About 75 percent of those affected with BPD are female as reported by Psych Central.
Causes and Symptoms of BPD
Borderline personality disorder is often both misdiagnosed and under diagnosed. Many times those who suffer from BPD also suffer from another disorder, making it harder to pinpoint. In order to diagnose someone with BPD, at least five of the following symptoms must be observed over a period of time:
- Intense moods and mood swings with episodes lasting hours or even days
- Extreme reactions to real or perceived abandonment
- Volatile relationships
- Reoccurring feelings of emptiness and/or boredom
- Self-harming and suicidal behavior
- Impulsivity that can lead to dangerous behavior
- Paranoia and dissociative feelings brought on by stress
- Distorted self-image
- Inability to control intense anger
Someone who suffers from BPD has trouble maintaining healthy relationships, has extreme fears of rejection and abandonment, and may swing from very high highs to low lows. Risky, impulsive behavior can lead sufferers into potentially dangerous situations, making them often victims of violence. These symptoms create a pattern of behavior. One of the scariest symptoms of BPD is suicidal behavior. According to the NIMH, 80 percent of those diagnosed with borderline personality disorder exhibit suicidal behavior and 4 to 9 percent actually commit suicide. There is much debate as to what actually causes borderline personality disorder. Most researchers agree that it is most likely a combination of environmental and genetic factors. It is believed that those with inherited temperaments like impulsivity and aggression have a higher tendency to develop BPD. An unstable home life and rocky family relationships may lead to BPD also.
Coping with borderline personality disorder can seem daunting, however help is available. It is not a life sentence, and it can be managed. Some of the following have worked to help people manage BPD in daily life:
- Learning coping skills for raging emotions
- Expressing emotions via creative outlets like drawing, painting or writing
- Performing relaxation exercises
- Active problem-solving behaviors
- Setting attainable and realistic goals
- Seeking comforting surroundings
- Listening to music that is opposite of the strong emotions felt
- Taking a warm shower or bath
- Setting a stable schedule
- Calling someone to talk
- Talking to people about triggering events or situations to help avoid them
- Engaging in a physical activity or outlet
- Learning about the disorder
- Being patient and understanding that symptoms may improve gradually
Understanding the signs and symptoms of borderline personality disorder can go a long way toward healing. By identifying that these mood swings and intense emotions are not intentional, one can learn to recognize the warning signs and learn to cope. Self-awareness is key, and knowledge is power. The coping mechanisms listed above may be immediately helpful during an episode, but also they may not be enough long-term. Seeking professional help is often the best answer.
Treatment for BPD
A study run on those hospitalized and treated as inpatients for BPD indicates that after treatment as many as 70 percent no longer exhibited symptoms, and of those, 94 percent never exhibited symptoms again during the six years following the study. Treatment should be highly specific and individual. A combination of medication and psychosocial therapy is usually recommended.Medications like olanzapine can help reduce symptoms like anxiety and depression but should taken only under the direct supervision and recommendation of a doctor. Clinical psychologist Marsha Linehan created an highly acclaimed therapy called dialectical behavior therapy or DBT which is a combination of cognitive behavioral therapy and life coping skills. DBT works by combining traditional therapy methods with an understanding and validation of the individual’s feelings. It focuses on situational awareness, attentiveness, and the concept of mindfulness. Individual therapy helps to reduce risky and life-threatening behaviors. Group therapy sessions work to teach core life skills to help develop a better self-image and more adept coping abilities. DBT also usually advocates that a therapist be available by telephone 24 hours a day to help avert crisis. Family support for those suffering from borderline personality disorder is imperative as well. Family members should be nonjudgmental, patient and understanding. Family support groups and training exist as additional support systems as well. Encouragement from a loved one can go a long way toward a successful outcome.