Borderline personality disorder, also known as BPD, is a mental health a disorder that affects your ability to regulate your emotions and feelings about yourself and the people around you. It affects approximately 14 million Americans. To be clear, this is different from the normal swings in emotions and diagnosable variations like bipolar disorder.
People diagnosed with BPD experience long-term patterns of extreme and unstable emotions that interfere with their ability to function in everyday life. You can think of BPD as extremes of everything — either really good or really bad. The opinions and perceptions of things change extremely fastleading to impulsiveness in relationships and actions.
Here’s what you need to know about borderline personality disorder and getting help.
What causes borderline personality disorder?
Experts don’t fully understand what causes BPD, although current research suggests that it does genetic, social and environmental factors contribute. Some research twin and family investigation has found that personality disorders can be inherited or family ties can predispose you to BPD.
The next factor is environmental and social impacts, especially in early childhood. Traumatic life experiences, such as a history of neglect, child abuse, or abandonment, can contribute to the development of BPD. One of the most tangible markers of BPD is a fear of abandonment and a willingness to do anything to stop it. The behavior undertaken is extreme, such as self-harm or aggressive actions physically hold a person there.
Finally, your brain structure can contribute to BPD. A study that looked at brain imaging of people with BPD found that amygdala and hippocampus — brain structures critical to emotional regulation and fear response — are smaller than in the midbrain.
Signs and symptoms of borderline personality disorder
Borderline personality disorder is not just a rollercoaster of emotions. It affects fundamentally how you interpret your feelings about yourself, your behavior and your relationships with others. While the experience of BPD symptoms will vary from person to person, there are typical behavioral markers that help therapists diagnose the condition. Handbook of diagnostics and statistics identify the symptoms of BPD as:
- Having strong fear of being abandoned from friends and family. For many with BPD, perceptions of abandonment or the end of a relationship are big triggers. They will frantically try to avoid both real and imagined abandonment.
- Significant mood swings it can range from happiness to anxiety and irritability. These episodes can last for several hours or even several days.
- A a history of unstable personal relationships with friends and family members.
- Impulsive and risky behavior such as overeating and drinking, leaving a good job, reckless spending and drug use.
- Frequent changes in the way one views oneself. Goals and values can also change.
- Self-injurious behavior and suicidal threats.
- Periods of intense anger or bitterness that can lead to physical fights.
How severe and how often someone may experience these symptoms depends on the person.
Treatment of borderline personality
The prognosis for borderline personality disorder is quite good, and even better if you seek treatment. It is important to see a licensed mental health professional who will perform a comprehensive medical examination.
A therapist can help create a effective treatment plan which includes psychotherapy, drug treatment, or peer counseling. Psychotherapeutic methods are the main treatment for BPD, including cognitive behavioral therapy, schema-focused therapy and dialectical behavior therapy. These therapy sessions help you build long-term coping skills that you can use to manage your symptoms and reactions to situations.
Medications may also be part of the BPD treatment plan. Mood stabilizers or antidepressants may be prescribed to help offset the extreme mood swings of BPD, although no single pill cures the symptoms.
No matter what your treatment plan looks like, the goal of BPD treatment is to help you overcome emotional problems and manage the symptoms of the disorder.
Borderline personality vs. bipolar disorder
While on the surface, borderline personality disorder and bipolar disorder seem like the same thing because of their common symptoms, they are two different disorders which cannot be collected together. BPD is a personality disorder while bipolar disorder is a mood disorder.
BPD is characterized by instability in your emotions and actions, in how you perceive situations, and in how others see you. When someone with bipolar disorder is not in a manic or depressive episode, they are in a state a stability that people with BPD lack.
Also, bipolar disorder is more than that responsive to medication because it is biologically based. BPD cannot be treated as bipolar disorder because additional psychological factors must be addressed.
Finding help for borderline personality disorder
Living with borderline personality disorder or being a family member of someone who has it can be stressful. When you’re in the thick of it, finding help can seem overwhelming, especially if you don’t know where to start or how to find a therapist.
If you are looking for a therapist in your area, you can contact your primary care physician, who will refer you to a mental health professional who is trained to help. When preparing for your appointment, write down your questions ahead of time and make sure you have a list of your current medications handy. You want to enter as much information as you can. Don’t be afraid to ask questions!
Also, it’s more than okay to bring a spouse, friend, or relative. You should feel empowered to do whatever it takes to make sure you are comfortable and in the best position to get help. Prognosis with long-term talk therapy is good but improving the more likely you are to accept help.
Use the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration for Behavioral Health, or SAMHSA, Finding treatment services to find the therapist in your area.
Self-Care Tips for Borderline Personality Disorder
The fact is, borderline personality disorder is not something you can get rid of. But it doesn’t have to rule your life and wreak havoc on your self-image and relationships. In addition to talk therapy and support from mental health professionals there is things you can do daily to take care of yourself.
- Set realistic goals.
- When you have a big task, break it down into smaller, achievable steps.
- Make sure your family and friends know what situations or actions can trigger you. They can do things unintentionally, and setting expectations can help avoid these situations altogether.
- Allow yourself to look for things that bring you comfort. It can be a place, people or a certain situation.
- Integrate exercise into your routine to reduce stress.
Borderline personality disorder is a lifelong condition. You should not expect your symptoms to disappear or improve overnight. You will see gradual improvements in your thoughts and actions with therapy and self-care.
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have about a medical condition or health goals.