Long-Term Outlook for Young Adults With Borderline Personality Disorder

Failure to LaunchA diagnosis of borderline personality disorder in young adults, commonly known as BPD, may seem like a crushing blow for any parent to hear. Fortunately, there are many treatment options, and if managed correctly, the prognosis is positive. The disorder is often diagnosed in young adulthood, and symptoms often taper off later in life. While BPD is not commonly diagnosed in people under age 18, if the symptoms of mood and emotional instability coupled with interpersonal relationship issues persist for a period of at least a year, a diagnosis can be made.

As the understanding of the disorder improves, so do treatment options as well as the future prognosis. An article in Advances in Psychiatry mentions a study that followed up with a set of people diagnosed with BPD seven years later, where 53 percent of them no longer met the criteria for the disorder. This is encouraging for young adults currently diagnosed with BPD and their loved ones.

If your child is a young adult with borderline personality disorder, you deeply understand the struggles of intense mood swings, the inability to regulate emotions and the wild, impulsive behavior sometimes leading to self-harm or harm to others.

Young adults aged 17 to 28 with BPD often struggle with relationships and other areas of development, such as staying in school, managing studies, working and living independently. To make matters worse, there is a great deal of stigma surrounding this very misunderstood diagnosis, even among mental health and healthcare professionals.

The Brain and Behavior Research Foundation features a thoughtful video of a woman describing BPD as “pretty much the most painful and lonely existence imaginable.” Volatile emotions, unstable relationships, short bursts of crippling anxiety, white-knuckled fear of abandonment, extreme idealization and devaluation of others, substance abuse, reckless driving and other severe, disruptive behaviors can tear away at the fabric of a young adult’s life.

As a parent, watching this happen to your adult child is equal parts terrifying and confusing. You may have been told that any form of response to negative actions can reinforce behavior in children with BPD. So what is a parent to do?

Early Diagnosis

Many medical professionals hesitate to make a diagnosis of BPD in adolescents due to the fact that BPD is a personality disorder, and teenagers do not yet have a fixed personality. Their brains are still maturing and growing as they develop. Many BPD symptoms like impulsivity, aggression, mood swings, and behavior problems may seem like nothing more than typical teenage angst. However, when these symptoms form a pattern that is stable for a year, it can be a sign that something more serious is occurring. More and more professionals are agreeing that earlier diagnosis and treatment may be effective and have a positive outcome.

There is no magic cure for borderline personality disorder, and the disorder looks different in each individual due to the large range of symptoms. Many treatments do exist to help learn how to cope with these intense symptoms. Earlier diagnosis means that specific treatment can start sooner and patterns of behavior can be taught and relearned.

Treatment for Borderline Personality Disorder in Young Adults

One of the greatest misunderstandings about BPD is that many people think it is “always on” and that the symptoms never go away. The good news is that borderline personality disorder is one of the few psychiatric diagnoses that can go into remission. This means your young adult child can recover from this disorder.

While there is no magic cure for BPD, treatment provides an incredible amount of hope for people with the disorder and their families. Treatment provides the training and tools necessary to cope with intense symptoms.

Certain BPD medications can sometimes help manage symptoms, but the FDA does not currently approve any drugs for the treatment of BPD in young adults. Successful treatment usually focuses on changing behavior patterns associated with the disorder, by using treatment programs including cognitive behavioral therapy and supportive therapy.

Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), a form of psychotherapy, shows particularly positive results. DBT focuses on mindfulness, reality testing, and accepting and learning to tolerate emotional distress. DBT is often a family affair, where everyone learns new coping mechanisms and teamwork skills that help reduce or interrupt unhealthy behavior patterns associated with borderline personality disorder. The approach validates patients and rewards positive behavior.

Fortunately, borderline personality disorder does not have to be a life sentence. Accurate and timely diagnosis, proper treatment and management of symptoms can help young adults grow into fully functional and self-sufficient adults. In fact, Psychiatric Times published a study in which twins who reported BPD symptoms at 14 years old showed a drastic decline in these symptoms every two to three years during the 10 years that doctors followed their cases.

Through treatment, young adults with BPD can find hope, pursue a passion, and develop meaningful and long-lasting relationships to build a life worth living.

Treatment Options

BPD is characterized by intense mood swings and an inability to regulate emotions as well as impulsive behavior that can lead to self-harming actions. Children suffering from BPD may have their behavior reinforced when their negative actions illicit any form of response.

Successful treatment of BPD mainly works to change this behavior pattern. Psychotherapy like dialectical behavior therapy, or DBT, has shown positive results. Other types of treatment include:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Schema-based therapy
  • Psychodynamic therapy
  • Supportive therapy

DBT seems to show the most promise and is often a family affair where everyone is taught new coping skills and how to work together to break the pattern of violent symptoms. Patients are validated and positive behavior is rewarded. Teenagers differ from adults in their thought processes and maturation levels so therapy will need to be tailored to them.

BPD does not have to be a life sentence. With proper treatment and management of symptoms, young adults can grow into self-sufficient adults.

OPI works with young adults to help them transition through difficult phases of life. Skilled professionals are trained to understand the unique pressures brought on by BPD and can work with individuals to help learn the tools necessary for a healthy, happy future. Call us today for more information.

At OPI, we offer compassionate, clinically sophisticated intensive residential help for young adult men and women who suffer from borderline personality disorder or BPD symptoms, including genetic testing to determine the best course for medications, if needed. Rather than a sterile, hospital-like environment, we offer beautiful accommodations in luxury apartments just outside of Los Angeles.  At our OPI Intensive program, we treat the individual, not the diagnosis.  Our clinical team is made up of a diverse community of passionate, highly skilled individuals working together with you to help you find your joy and express it.   For more information on OPI Intensive residential programs and our measures to help young adults with Borderline Personality Disorder, call us at 866-661-3982 or click HERE to submit an online form. We’ll be in touch promptly.



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