Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a mental disorder defined by the National Institute of Mental Health as a disorder in which the person affected has unstable relationships, moods and behavior. It is typically diagnosed in early adulthood and can be difficult to pinpoint before then due to children’s changing and growing personalities and incomplete development. If a child or adolescent is diagnosed with BPD, however, they must have had at least a year of continuing and reoccurring symptoms. Psych Central reports that somewhere between 1.6 and 5.9 percent of Americans likely suffer from BPD.
Symptoms of BPD
Many parents claim that they recognized signs of BPD as early as infancy. Babies may be colicky and difficult to soothe, and as they get older, they may have difficulties learning and episodes of frustration and aggression that can manifest as behavioral problems. Children and adolescents endure many developmental changes sometimes rapidly and what may appear to be symptoms of one disorder can even evolve into something else entirely a few years down the road. Behavioral problems can be a sign of something deeper but they can also just be a phase children outgrow.
That being said, there are some signs that you can watch for if you suspect your child may be suffering from borderline personality disorder, including:
- Hard time experiencing pleasure
- Difficulty separating to go to school or other activities
- Intense fear of rejection and abandonment
- Less restful sleep patterns
- Harder to soothe
- Difficulties with changes in routine
- Demanding nature
- Episodes of extreme sadness
- Sensitive to criticism
- Easily frustrated
- Problems eating
- Severe temper tantrums
- Unstable moods and intense emotions
- Poor impulse control
- Impaired reasoning and thinking
- Trouble learning
- Unstable self-image
- Self-harming behavior
- Loves you one day and pushes you away the next
- Prone to fits and bouts of anger and aggression
Some of the more defining characteristics of borderline personality disorder include trouble with personal relationships and an extreme and unjustified fear of abandonment and rejection. This can make transitions to and from activities and places like school extremely difficult to manage.
Sufferers of BPD may idealize their caregivers one day and devalue them the next. Those suffering from BPD often have identity confusion, which in adolescents may manifest into gender confusion or take other forms. Shifting moods and emotional instability coupled with bouts of intense anger that is often manifested physically and self-destructive are also indicative of BPD.
While children are typically impulsive anyway, those suffering from borderline personality disorder may be even more so, causing them to engage in reckless behavior like running away or substance abuse. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, about 75 percent of those suffering from BPD will attempt to hurt themselves at some point.
These symptoms are not pleasant for the person living with BPD to cope with, nor are they easy for family members and friends to encounter. It’s no surprise, then, that unstable relationships are among the top indicators of borderline personality disorder. But once you know how to seek support and communicate what’s going on for you, building and maintaining healthy relationships becomes possible, and even natural.
If you suspect that your child may suffer from borderline personality disorder, you may feel overwhelmed and scared. Thankfully, BPD is treatable, and many methods and therapies exist to help you and your child. A mental health professional can help you discover which treatment will best serve your child.
Typically, treatment will include a form of psychotherapy like dialectal behavior therapy, which works to help the patient understand their feelings and thoughts as well as learn how to positively change them. Oftentimes, families receive counseling as well to learn tools to help cope with the disorder.
OPI helps young adults work through difficult transitional periods in their lives. We offer the necessary help to encourage those suffering from borderline personality disorder to manage their disorder and provide them with life skills and tools to become self-sufficient adults. OPI understands that each person is unique and deserves specialized care and attention. Contact us today to talk to a skilled professional about your options.
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