How Is BPD Diagnosed?

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Originally considered borderline to other mental disorders or atypical due to the brief psychotic episodes that sometimes occur with it, borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a misleading term that as of now has yet to be redefined. Though it is actually a separate disorder with its own set of symptoms and indicators, BPD can be difficult to diagnose and often goes unrealized and untreated. So just how is BPD diagnosed? Read on to learn how.

BPD is a mental disorder characterized by unstable moods and emotions as well as trouble with relationships. BPD also often co-occurs with other disorders like depression, anxiety, and substance abuse, further complicating its diagnosis. In fact, the National Alliance on Mental Illness reports that borderline personality disorder and major depressive disorder co-occur 60 percent of the time.

Signs Necessary for Diagnosis

In order to be diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, a person must exhibit a certain pattern of behavior over a period of time as defined by the American Psychiatric Association. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, at least five of the following must be present in order for a diagnosis of BPD to be made:

  • Intense fear of abandonment and frantic efforts to avoid it
  • Risky, reckless, and impulsive behavior
  • Self-injurious behavior, including suicidal thoughts or actions
  • Chronic boredom and/or feelings of emptiness
  • Trouble maintaining personal relationships
  • Inappropriate anger
  • Intense mood swings
  • Unstable sense of self or self-image
  • Dissociate symptoms or paranoid thoughts

BPD symptoms pervade a person’s life and interfere with learning, social, and occupational endeavors. Those suffering from BPD are sensitive to environmental triggers, and the pattern of symptoms is present in more than one setting. These symptoms present differently in each individual, making it hard for anyone other than a skilled clinician to make a proper diagnosis.

Diagnostic Process

BPD is usually diagnosed in early adulthood, although symptoms may present earlier. There is no specific test that can magically diagnose BPD successfully every time; however, a skilled medical professional has several tools at their disposal to assist them. Typically, they will conduct a thorough interview and compare the signs and symptoms presented with those listed above. They also will look at the person’s complete medical history, as sometimes these symptoms can present earlier in life and even in childhood. A psychological evaluation is also usually necessary to help a professional diagnose a personality disorder.

Once a diagnosis has been made, if the person is believed to suffer from borderline personality disorder, a treatment plan will be put in place. Psychotherapy, including dialectical behavior therapy, or DBT, has shown indications of success. DBT works to help individuals change their thought processes and make positive lifestyle changes. A positive bond with a therapist can be vital for someone with trouble with relationships – a symptom that is typical of BPD.

BPD can be difficult to diagnose and even more difficult to find proper treatment for. Here at OPI, we understand the struggles someone suffering from BPD and their loved ones may have endured. We strive to offer the best treatment available specific to each individual’s needs.

BPD often co-occurs with other disorders requiring dual diagnosis treatment in which both disorders are treated simultaneously for optimal results. We work to teach life skills and provide the tools necessary to help manage BPD and any other disorders that may be present.

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