Borderline Personality Disorder

GinaMarie Guarino, LMHC

Condition updated on November 6th, 2018

Borderline Personality Disorder

What is Borderline Personality Disorder?

Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a disorder that affects more than just the affected person. A person with BPD suffers from a pattern of erratic behavior that causes strained relationships. It is a serious, chronic disorder that causes unstable mood and emotional issues.

A person with BPD often experiences anxiety and depression. They will present with unhealthy behaviors toward others. Some people with BPD may even suffer from suicidal thoughts.

People with BPD struggle with establishing a sense of independence or autonomy. Most people with BPD develop unhealthy relationships. Their need for constant validation is often cause a strain on their loved ones. People with BPD develop an unhealthy dependence on the people they love.

Symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder

A person with BPD will have emotional, cognitive, and behavioral symptoms. Such symptoms and warning signs of BPD include:

  • A pattern of unstable relationships
  • Being overly needy or dependent on relationships
  • Extreme mood swings
  • Co-occurring mood or substance abuse disorders
  • Intense fear of abandonment
  • Paranoia
  • Suicidal thoughts or threats
  • Impulsive and dangerous behavior
  • Poor self-esteem
  • Pushing away and being combative with the people they love

A person with BPD will exhibit a habit of “pushing and pulling” in relationships. They will go from desperately needing to be close to a partner to acting hostile or unapproachable.

In severe cases, the person with BPD may show psychotic or dissociative symptoms. Psychotic symptoms are signs of the patient falling out of touch with reality. Dissociative symptoms cause disconnect from an affected person’s identity. This can sometimes cause out-of-body experiences.

Causes and Risk Factors of Borderline Personality Disorder

It has been found that certain circumstances greatly contribute to the onset of BPD.

For example, a child may develop BPD if they have emotionally unavailable parents. Parents play a pivotal role in a child’s development. Providing support and security helps a child learn how to be independent. It also helps them develop confidence and self-esteem. When these things are not provided the child is not able to develop a sense of autonomy.

Growing up in a neglectful environment is also a risk factor. There are many kinds of neglect, like physical, mental, and emotional neglect. In these cases, children learn maladaptive coping strategies to cope with neglect. They develop patterns like paranoia and delusional thinking. This is the result of not properly learning how the world works and their own place in the world.

Treatment for Borderline Personality Disorder

Unfortunately, treatment for BPD has proven to be difficult. People with BPD have a warped sense of reality. They also have an undeveloped sense of self. As they grow, they learn how to identify who they are based on their relationships with other people.

There are also often co-occurring mental health and substance abuse disorders to consider. If a person with BPD also suffers from another mental health condition, that condition must also be addressed in treatment.

People with BPD often suffer from other mental illnesses, like:

While it may be difficult, it is possible to treat BPD. Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) is especially effective for treating BPD. In fact, it was developed specifically to target patients with BPD. DBT helps with BPD because it teaches the patient how to cope with emotional distress. It also targets problem behaviors and distorted thinking, along with addressing issues in relationships by teaching positive interpersonal skills.

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