Borderline Personality Disorder: What is it, and how is it Treated?
By Giovanni P. Pierre, PMHNP-BC
Safe Haven Behavioral Health & Wellness
Borderline personality disorder (BPD) affects millions of people worldwide and has been recognized by the American Psychiatric Association since 1980, but BPD remains one of the most misunderstood mental illnesses. What's Borderline Personality Disorder? In short, BPD is a type of personality disorder (a long-term way of thinking and behaving that deviates from what society typically accepts as normal) that causes you to perceive situations as either all good or all bad in ways that aren't always reasonable or logical.
Symptoms of BPD
People with BPD tend to have intense emotions, leading to impulsive and self-destructive behaviors. Some common symptoms of BPD include thoughts about suicide or hurting oneself; trying to avoid abandonment; and intense anger that might result in physical fights or property damage. According to the Mayo Clinic, these people may feel empty inside and experience a lot of emotional pain because they often see themselves as inadequate or inferior to others.
Causes of BPD
There is no single cause of borderline personality disorder. Instead, it is thought to result from environmental and genetic factors. It has been noted that many people with BPD have experienced abuse or neglect in childhood. When someone experiences traumatic events as a child, they may develop maladaptive coping skills to help them deal with their emotions; this can include becoming impulsive or using drugs or alcohol to avoid feeling things that make them uncomfortable. A person's environment (home life) can also play an essential role in their mental health; living in poverty can often lead to social isolation and frustration, which increases the risk of developing BPD.
Treatments for BPD
There is no one-size-fits-all treatment for BPD, but many effective options exist. Treatment usually involves a combination of medication, therapy, and support groups. Medications can help with mood swings, depression, anxiety, and difficulty sleeping. Psychotherapy focuses on helping people understand their illness better and coping with difficult situations in healthier ways. Group therapy is often recommended to help teach social skills and provide peer support for living with BPD. A person with BPD may also need to spend time in an inpatient or residential treatment center if they experience suicidal thoughts or feelings get too severe. Outpatient programs are also available that can provide support between sessions to help clients maintain progress made during the sessions themselves. The best course of action will vary from person to person based on their specific needs.
Ways to Prevent Suicide in Those with BPD
If you live with someone with BPD, you know that the experience can be chaotic. There are extreme mood swings and impulsive behaviors. It can be exhausting. You might feel like you're always walking on eggshells, never quite sure what will set your loved one off. The good news is that there are ways to help prevent suicide in those with BPD. Here's a quick rundown of what to do if you find yourself in this situation. First, if your loved one has threatened suicide or attempted suicide before, don't ignore it! Listen to them when they say they want to die and do everything you can to get them professional help. Talk about their plan of action with them, so they don't act impulsively again without thinking things through first. Encourage them to use coping skills such as breathing exercises or muscle relaxation techniques when feeling particularly anxious or sad, so they don't act out impulsively like self-harm or drug abuse.
Living with Someone with BPD
If you live with someone with borderline personality disorder (BPD), you know that the experience can be draining. Living with BPD can feel like walking on eggshells, from constant emotional ups and downs to explosive fights. But there is hope. With treatment, people with BPD can learn to manage their symptoms and lead happy productive lives. The first step in recovery is getting a diagnosis.
First, visit your primary care physician or psychiatrist for a consultation; they'll ask about your symptoms and rule out other mental health disorders. Second, you'll need to talk with a mental health professional trained in BPD. The best therapists have personal and academic experience with the illness. In some cases, they may have lived through an episode of BPD themselves. The therapist will meet with you an average of twice weekly for several months during intensive therapy called dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). In DBT sessions, you'll learn skills that help regulate mood swings, improve relationships, and make better decisions.