Every year, 1.6% of the adults in the United States are diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). Of these, only 42.4% receive any of the medical care that is recommended for this psychological problem, which affects people of both genders and all races. This disorder gets its name because although those diagnosed have symptoms that lie along the “borderline” between neurosis and psychosis.
What is Borderline Personality Disorder?
Borderline Personality Disorder is an emotional condition that makes it difficult to form and maintain normal relationships because the people affected by it have a negatively distorted image of themselves, resulting in feelings of inadequacy and worthlessness. In reaction to this altered perception, sufferers may act out in socially unacceptable ways, exhibiting excessive bouts of anger, impulsive responses, and fluctuating emotional patterns. Even with full knowledge that their actions are causing them problems in social situations, people with BPD cannot change their tumultuous behavior without help.
Symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder
The following are some of the most prominent symptoms seen in most patients with Borderline Personality Disorder:
- Dangerous behaviors, including risky sexual behaviors, reckless driving habits, irresponsible spending, and overuse of drugs or alcohol
- Inability to control angry outbursts or other emotionally driven impulses
- Intense moods that are frequently changing
- Strong feelings of anxiety or despair
- Intense dislike of being isolated or alone
- Difficulty with long-term, steady relationships
- Stress-related memory problems
- Suicidal thinking
People who have been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder often complain of physical symptoms, such as painful headaches.
Causes of Borderline Personality Disorder
Research has not provided a conclusive reason that people develop Borderline Personality Disorder, but the medical community does suspect that it may be caused by a combination of factors. These include irregularities in the brain, environmental factors, and genetic tendencies. Because studies show that twins are often affected by BPD, researchers hypothesize that there could be a genetic component to this condition, but there is not enough evidence to say that this is the only cause.
Many people that develop this psychological disorder have some type of environmental trauma in their past. For some, this is an abusive mother or father; for others, it might be abandonment at an early age. In any case, childhood or teenage years marked by family relationship problems could add to the likelihood of someone later developing Borderline Personality Disorder.
Researchers are also using some of the newer medical technology to explore the brains of people who have been diagnosed with Borderline Personality to see if they differ from the brains of other people. Some evidence suggests that certain areas of the brain, the frontal lobes and the amygdala, which control aggressiveness, impulsiveness, and emotional control, are structured differently in those suffering from BPD.
Subtypes of Borderline Personality Disorder
Most doctors think there are at least four subtypes of this disorder. Theodore Millon, a noted expert in Personality Disorder, labels them as follows:
The Discouraged Borderline: This person may seem extremely serious and depressed. He or she may become too dependent on casual friends and is sometimes seething with unexpressed anger just beneath the surface. When that anger breaks through, these people often hurt themselves in some manner or even develop suicidal tendencies.
The Impulsive Borderline: People within this subset are huge thrill-seekers. They love being the center of attention and often become excessively flirtatious in order to get the excitement they need in order to thrive. These people attract friends very easily but also act irresponsibly and dangerously.
The Petulant Borderline: These people have difficulty making any kind of social connections because they come across as gloomy, faultfinding, and obstinate. Because they are so unpredictable in their extreme need for others and a contradictory desire to push them away to prevent disappointment, the petulant borderline has difficulty making lasting connections. They also can have an explosive temper, which leads them to feel unworthy of being loved.
The Self-Destructive Borderline: This subtype turns their bitter feelings about life against themselves. Some intentionally become involved in destructive behaviors such as drugs or alcohol, but others subconsciously put themselves into harm’s way through neglecting their health, eating disorder, or hazardous driving.
Treatment Options for Borderline Personality Disorder
Patients with Borderline Personality Disorder need individualized treatment by specialists who understand the intricacies of this problem. Most doctors use Psychotherapy along with some combination of prescription medications to help a patient return to normal functioning. Some with BPD require a period of hospitalization, and many respond favorably to residential treatment. In most cases, the symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder are difficult to treat and require an extended period of time to improve.
The two types of Psychotherapy most commonly prescribed for Borderline Personality Disorder are Dialectical Behavioral Therapy and Transference-Focused Psychotherapy. Dialectical Behavioral Therapy can be done individually or through group counseling; some doctors will even offer this therapy over the phone. The idea is to give patients practice in developing the skills they will need to deal with stress, control their emotional responses, and develop workable relationships with those in their daily sphere.
Transference-Focused Psychotherapy involves using the thoughts and feelings engendered by a counselor to help the patient understand his or her relationships with other people and their roots in early childhood experiences and temperament.
Borderline Personality Disorder FAQ
Patients sometimes find a diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder upsetting and have a number of unanswered questions that they forget to explore with their physician. The following are a few of those commonly asked by patients who have just been diagnosed with BPD:
How is a diagnosis for Borderline Personality Disorder reached?
Doctors have standardized diagnostic criteria that they use to determine if a patient has BPD. They interview a patient about their thoughts and behaviors and compare their answers to the following list:
- Severe anxiety over abandonment issues
- Recurring relationship problems
- Constant feelings of worthlessness
- Pendulum-like mood swings
- Uncontrollable impulses
- Anger management issues or physical confrontations
- Unbalanced or inaccurate self-image
- Unfounded suspicion or extreme fear
- Death wishes or a desire to harm oneself or others
When a doctor notes that a patient exhibits at least five of these problem thoughts and behaviors, the diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder is made.
How long does treatment for Borderline Personality Disorder take?
Borderline Personality Disorder is a chronic condition, but treatment programs help patients learn to manage their symptoms. For some it may be a simple medication regimen that works for them. Others may have to work through more issues and try several combinations of medicines before reaching stability. For this reason, it is impossible to tell an individual patient when he or she will be able to resume their normal activities. Some will choose to remain in therapy for quite a while.
What are the negative results of untreated borderline personality disorder?
Without medical intervention, people with BPD have difficulty maintaining a job and living within a marriage framework. Self-injury is always a possibility, and this sometimes results in frequent hospital visits because 65% of those with borderline personality disorder exhibit self-destructive acts. Those with BPD also have a greater incidence of injuries related to motor vehicle wrecks, fistfights, and sexual promiscuity because of their propensity toward risky behaviors. Borderline personality disorder also seems to be a risk factor for other psychological conditions such as: substance abuse, Anxiety, Anorexia or Bulimia, Depression, and Bipolar Disorder, which can co-exist with this diagnosis.
How does Borderline Personality Disorder progress?
Symptoms of this disorder usually become apparent in early adulthood. People who have it may experience a loss of control over their emotions and angry outbursts. Young adulthood is also the time that those who suffer from BPD are more vulnerable to suicidal thoughts. By the time they reach middle age, most people find it easier to cope with the symptoms of this disorder and often find greater stability in their lives, especially if they undergo appropriate medical intervention.
Why Should People with Borderline Personality Disorder Choose Bridges to Recovery for Residential Treatment?
A diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder can be overwhelming to patients and their families. They need the help and guidance of a good team of doctors and counselors to help them understand this illness and plan a pathway to good mental health. Bridges to Recovery residential Treatment Centers provide excellent care for every aspect of this traumatic illness, including any physical conditions or addictions.
By choosing residential treatment, patients are able to put aside any situations or relationships that are currently causing them stress to concentrate on learning to deal with this life-altering disorder. Residential treatment allows care providers to monitor medicines and watch for potential undesirable side effects. It also gives patients easy access to psychiatrists should they become emotionally disturbed. At Bridges to Recovery, the goal is not only to help patients get better but also to keep them safe as they do so. The well-trained, considerate staff at Bridges to Recovery Residential Treatment Centers will ensure that patients’ needs are met in a timely manner so that they can focus their energy on recovery.