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What is Borderline Personality Disorder?

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Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a serious mental illness that affects 1.6 percent of the adult population. Individuals who suffer from BPD experience unstable moods and behaviors. Nearly 75 percent of those individuals diagnosed with BPD are women, however recent research indicates that men may be almost as frequently affected. It is believed that men have historically been misdiagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or depression, when the underlying cause of their mental health issues is actually BPD.

Symptoms of BPD may include:

  • Difficulty regulating emotions and thoughts
  • Impulsive behaviors
  • Unstable relationships

Individuals with BPD have higher rates of co-occurring disorders, such as anxiety, depression, substance abuse, eating disorders, and suicidal behaviors, complicating the treatment and management of their condition. One of the greatest risk factors of BPD is its association with a high risk of self-harm and suicide. Up to 80 percent of those diagnosed with BPD experience suicidal behavior, and an estimated 4 to 9 percent actually commit suicide.

Risk Factors
Researchers believe that BPD is linked to both environmental and genetic factors. In addition, social or cultural elements may also increase the likelihood for developing BPD, such as being part of a community with unstable family relationships. Adults with BPD are also more likely to have been the victim of violence. Research indicates that the brains of those with BPD function differently compared to the average individual, suggesting that there is a neurological basis for some BPD symptoms. Studies show that the portions of the brain that control emotions and decision-making may not communicate well with one another.

To be diagnosed with BPD an individual must demonstrate an enduring pattern of behavior that includes at least five of the following symptoms:

  • Extreme reactions such as panic, depression, rage, or frantic actions when faced with potential abandonment, whether real or perceived.
  • A pattern of intense and turbulent relationships often ranging from extreme closeness to extreme dislike.
  • Distorted and unstable self-image, which can result in sudden changes in feelings or plans for the future.
  • Impulsive and often dangerous behaviors, such as spending sprees, substance abuse, reckless driving, and binge eating.
  • Recurring suicidal behaviors or threats or self-harm.
  • Intense and highly changeable moods, with episodes ranging from a period of hours to days.
  • Chronic feelings of emptiness and/or boredom.
  • Inappropriate, intense anger or difficulty controlling anger.
  • Having stress-related paranoia or severe dissociative symptoms, such as feeling cut off from oneself or losing touch with reality.

One of the most effective treatments for BPD is dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), a specific type of cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy. There are four components of DBT: skills training in groups, individual treatment, phone coaching, and team consultations. DBT has been shown to reduce suicide attempts in women suffering from DBT by 50 percent. DBT has also been known to help reduce emergency room use and inpatient services.

If you believe that you or a loved one may be suffering from BPD, seek help today. With proper treatment and support, individuals with BPD can learn to live a healthy life surrounded by stable relationships and healthy thoughts and attitudes. BPD can be confused with other mental health disorders.  It’s best to get a professional opinion about the symptoms you are experiencing.  For help, contact Horizon Health Services today at (716) 831-1800.