In some countries, May has been chosen to mark Borderline Personality Awareness Month.
What is BPD?
Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is a serious mental illness that centers on the inability to manage emotions effectively. While some persons with BPD are high functioning in certain settings, their private lives may be in turmoil. Most people who have BPD suffer from problems regulating their emotions and thoughts, impulsive and sometimes reckless behavior, and unstable relationships.
Usually, in order to be diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, the individual has to comply with at least five of the nine following criteria:
- Frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment.
- A pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships characterized by alternating between extremes of idealization and devaluation.
- Identity disturbance: markedly and persistently unstable self-image or sense of self.
- Impulsivity in at least two areas that are potentially self-damaging (e.g. spending, irresponsible sex, substance abuse, reckless driving, binge eating). This does not include suicidal or self-harming behavior.
- Recurrent suicidal behavior, gestures, or threats, or self-mutilating behavior.
- Affective instability due to a marked reactivity of mood – intense feelings that can last from a few hours to a few days.
- Chronic feelings of emptiness.
- Inappropriate intense anger or difficulty controlling anger.
- Transient, stress-related paranoid ideas or severe dissociative symptoms.
Not all people diagnosed with BPD will go through it the same way, as there are over 100 combinations of symptoms possible, considering 5 out of the 9 criteria, plus the individual experience. So, there is not a stereotype of people with BPD. Get rid of all that!
The diagnosis of BPD is only made when it is clear that these behaviors have been present over time (usually starting in early adulthood) and across a range of situations. So no, if you sometimes feel sad and happy on the same day, that doesn’t mean you have BPD.
BPD should be taken seriously, unfortunately 1 out of 10 individuals with this diagnosis die by suicide.
How do you treat BPD?
Borderline Personality Disorder needs to be diagnosed by a licensed mental health professional —such as a psychiatrist and/or psychologist— who is experienced in diagnosing and treating mental disorders. It is usually diagnosed in late adolescence or early adulthood. Occasionally, a person younger than age 18 may be diagnosed with BPD if symptoms are significant and last at least a year.
Truth is that, historically, Borderline Personality Disorder has been viewed as challenging to treat, but with newer, evidence-based treatment, many people with this disorder experience fewer and less severe symptoms, improved functioning, and better quality of life.
It is important to seek—and stick with—treatment.
Doctors treat borderline personality disorder with:
- Therapy (individual and group)
- Sometimes with prescribed meds
Psychotherapy, sometimes called “talk therapy,” is the first-line treatment for people with BPD. Most psychotherapy occurs with a licensed, trained mental health professional in one-on-one sessions or with other individuals in group settings. Group sessions may help teach people with Borderline Personality Disorder to interact with others and express themselves effectively.
Two examples of psychotherapies used to treat BPD are:
- Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT): This treatment was developed specifically for individuals with borderline personality disorder. DBT uses concepts of mindfulness or awareness of one’s present situation and emotional state. DBT also teaches skills to help people control intense emotions, reduce self-destructive behaviors, and improve relationships.
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): This treatment can help people identify and change core beliefs and behaviors that come from inaccurate perceptions of themselves and others and problems interacting with others. It may help people reduce mood swings and anxiety symptoms and may reduce the number of self-harming or suicidal behaviors.
There is no medication to “heal” BPD, but wait! In some cases, a psychiatrist may recommend medications to treat specific symptoms or co-occurring mental disorders such as mood swings or depression, which are really useful to surf through BPD crises. Treatment with medications may require coordinated care from more than one medical professional.
The winning combo is a self-caring lifestyle that actually applies to everyone:
Therapy + regular exercising + healthy diet + solid network of friends and/or family + good sleep + mindfulness + a bunch of things you can try every day + meds (if necessary).
Other forms of treatment, such as art therapy, massage therapy, music therapy, and more, can help those with BPD to express themselves in a healthy way while also learning more about who they are.
What are the challenges of BPD?
- Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) can be hard to diagnose because the symptoms of this disorder overlap with many other conditions, such as Bipolar Disorder, depression, anxiety, and even eating disorders.
- Finding the right mix of medications that are right for you will take time… and unfortunately the treatment is not precisely cheap.
- People who have BPD typically experience periods of depressed mood, anxiety, or irritability that can last for days.
- Friendships and relationships often become challenging, especially for loved ones who may not know how to support this person or better help them through troubling situations. Family and friends can become more supportive of their loved one by being patient and understanding that their reactions and behaviors are part of mental illness.
- A lack of diagnosis, an incorrect diagnosis and/or not addressing BPD can lead to serious consequences. BPD should be taken seriously, unfortunately 1 out of 10 individuals with this diagnosis die by suicide.
Cool facts about BPD
- People with BPD can be empathetic, compassionate, creative and lovely individuals.
- People with BPD are extremely sensitive to their own, and others’ emotions and feelings.
- With solid therapy and hard work, the long-term outlook for people with BPD can be (really) bright.
- Those with BPD tend to be extremely loyal and trustworthy.
- Resilience – Due to frequently being survivors of trauma, people who have BPD have learnt to navigate intense inner turmoil and build a life regardless.
- Resourcefulness is a real skill and yet one that those with Borderline Personality Disorder rarely acknowledge.
With all these positive aspects to our personality, it is a shame that those with Borderline Personality Disorder are deemed to be medically ‘disordered’ at all. Actually, if positively re-directed, many of our qualities are a superpower.
Don’t let your own diagnosis come with a lot of negativity. Try to see that BPD brings you a host of good qualities that you wouldn’t want to be without.
Before you go, check out our BPD Gallery. You’re gonna love it!
If you think you could have BPD or if you’re struggling with your current condition, please seek professional care.