What is borderline personality disorder?

  • Borderline personality disorder is characterized by a pattern of instability in mood, interpersonal relationships, impulsivity, self-image, and emotions.
  • It is important to understand the symptoms of this personality disorder, as it can be easily mistaken with those of a mood disorder, because it entails a component of mood dysregulation. However, the two disorders are very different.
  • The onset of these characteristics may begin to show during late adolescent years, in terms of a person’s thinking and behavior, however the diagnosis is usually made by early adulthood.

How common is borderline personality disorder?

  • It is estimated that 1.6% of adults in the US have borderline personality disorder, but this number may be higher.
  • 75% of people diagnosed with borderline personality disorder are females, rather than males.
  • Recent research has shown that men are just as affected by the disorder as women but it was often misdiagnosed as post-traumatic stress disorder or depression.

What causes borderline personality disorder?

The exact causes of borderline personality disorder are not all know; however, certain known factors contribute to the development of this disorder. These factors include:
  • Heritability:
    • Genetics are known to play a role in the development. Individuals with relatives with this disorder or other disorders, such as substance use and bipolar disorder, are at a higher risk of developing this disorder.
  • Environmental factors:
    • Negative childhood experiences such as physical or sexual abuse, neglect, or separation from caregiver can also increase the risk of developing borderline personality disorder.
  • Brain functions:
    • Abnormalities in brain structures and neurotransmitters that are involved in emotion regulation, impulsivity, and aggression can result in borderline personality disorder.

How is the diagnosis for borderline personality disorder made?

Diagnosis of borderline personality disorder is based on:
  • A thorough interview with you doctor or mental health provider
  • A psychological evaluation
  • Clinical history
  • Meeting the criteria for at least 5 of the sign and symptoms of borderline personality disorder

What are the common symptoms of borderline personality disorder?

Some of the most common symptoms of borderline personality disorder are:
  • Frantic efforts to avoid abandonment, both real and imagined        
  • Harmful impulsive behavior such as binge eating, practicing unsafe sex, out-of-control spending, reckless driving, substance or alcohol use
  • Having unstable relationships, alternating from idolizing to devaluing the other person
  • Distorted self-image, such as seeing oneself as evil or bad, or changing values or goals
  • Having low self-worth
  • Intense mood swings, experiencing periods of intense depressive mood or anxiety
  • Recurrent suicidal behavior and gestures, or self-mutilating behaviors
  • Feelings of emptiness
  • Intense, inappropriate anger that is disproportionate to the situation and difficulty controlling anger
  • Paranoid ideation related to stress
  • Dissociative feelings such as disconnecting from your thoughts or sense of identity

What are the treatments available for borderline personality disorder?

Treatment for individuals suffering from borderline personality disorders includes psychotherapy, medication, and hospitalization. Family and friend support is also important when it comes to treatment for the disorder.
  • Psychotherapy
    • Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) o helps patients balance the extremities in their behavior. Individuals suffering from borderline personality disorder often are between two extremes, one where they open up or accept clinical help and another where they shut down or drop out of therapy. DBT features a weekly one-on-one sessions with a counselor and group training skills. Counselor’s help patients regulate their emotions, teach them ways to deal with overwhelming feelings, and also they acknowledge patient’s emotions. Patients who underwent this therapy were more successful at reducing suicide attempts, self-mutilation, and self-damaging behaviors.
    • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) focuses on thoughts instead of emotions. Individuals with borderline personality disorders often see themselves as being bad and they interpret events that occur in a way that confirms this negative self-image. CBT helps patients work on changing the dysfunctional beliefs by revisiting the origin of the negative thoughts and attempting to understand them.
    • Mentalization-based therapy (MBT) emphasizes thinking before reacting. This therapy is a type of talk therapy that helps the identification and separation of an individual thoughts and feelings from those of others around.
    • Schema-focused therapy (SBT) helps identify positive patterns in life and change negative ones. To do this, therapy approaches are combined to help patients assess repetitive life patterns and themes.
    • Transference-focused psychotherapy (TFP)helps patients understand their emotions and interpersonal difficulties by developing a relationship between the patient and therapists.
  • Medication
    • Borderline personality disorder is often associated with other clinical problems such as depression, impulsiveness, and anxiety. Medication can be prescribed to individuals suffering from other problems. The medicine should be prescribed by a doctor in adequate doses, and the individuals must be supervised through scheduled follow ups.
  • Hospitalization
    • If an individual need more intense treatment, he/she can be admitted to the hospital to keep them safe from self-harm and suicidal thoughts. The patient receives more intense treatment which helps in the management of the illness’s symptoms.
  • Healthy lifestyle
    • Living a healthy lifestyle can help reduce the stress, anxiety, and can help the symptoms be less severe. Eating healthy foods, getting enough sleep, exercising often, and avoiding drug and alcohol can all help.

How to cope with borderline personality disorder?

Having borderline personality disorder can be difficult to live with. Several methods can help you cope with this condition. These methods include:
  • Learning about the disorder and understanding its causes and treatments
  • Following the treatment plan
  • Attending all therapy sessions
  • Taking medications as prescribed and reporting to the doctor
  • Practicing healthy methods of coping in order to ease painful emotions and prevent impulsive behaviors
  • Learn what triggers an angry outburst or impulsive behavior
  • Do not feel embarrassed by condition
  • Get treatment if other related problems are present, such substance abuse
  • Talk to other individuals with this disorder in order to share common experiences and insights
  • Live a healthy lifestyle

Family and friends can also help a person cope with this disorder. They can:
  • Look for warning sign and symptoms
  • Encourage continuing treatment
  • Learn as much as possible about the disorder
  • Show them that they are still loved
  • Understand that their behaviors are caused by the disorder and not their personality
  • Call for professional help if you think that the individual is a harm to herself/himself or others