Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a serious condition characterized by highly impulsive or reckless behaviors, mood instability including inappropriate or extreme emotional reactions, and a history of very unstable relationships.
The patterns of thoughts and behaviors seem appropriate and justified to the person with the personality disorder, even though they can lead to a great deal of stress and conflict and make it difficult for them to complete schooling, maintain stable jobs or have a long-lasting, loving, relationship.
What is the cause of borderline personality disorder?
Experts are not sure exactly what causes BPD but it appears it occurs as a result of both genetic and upbringing influences.
Some people do have a history of abandonment, sexual or physical abuse, traumatic experiences, a bad upbringing, or feeling like you are not living up to people's expectations.
What are the symptoms of borderline personality disorder?
Symptoms vary from person to person and may include:
- Having a dysfunctional, distorted or unstable self-image
- Fear of abandonment or rejection; emotional reactions to real and perceived abandonment are extreme
- Feelings of isolation or emptiness
- A history of unstable and intense relationship that can change drastically from intense love to intense hate
- Highly changeable moods that can last for several days or a few hours
- Intense anger inappropriate to the situation or difficulty controlling the anger
- Suicidal behavior or self-harm
- Minor problems become major crises
- Unstable career plans, goals and aspirations
- Paranoia during periods of stress or conflict.
Many of these symptoms are experienced by most people at some point; however, in someone with a borderline personality disorder, they are experienced consistently throughout adulthood.
Who is at risk of borderline personality disorder?
Women are more at risk of the disorder than men.
Symptoms usually show up by late adolescence or early adulthood and then remain stable throughout adulthood, with most improving with increasing age.
Many people with BPD also have other conditions such as an eating disorder, social phobia, bipolar disease, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and drug and alcohol abuse.
How is borderline personality disorder diagnosed?
BPD can be difficult to diagnose because the person with BPD generally does not seek out treatment until the condition starts to significantly impact their life. Also, people with BPD often experience other mental health conditions which may be like BPD.
Your doctor will take a history and then refer you to someone who specializes in mental health conditions. A diagnosis is made once the professional talks to you about what you have been experiencing and how you have been coping with your day to day life. They may also talk to members of your family or other people who know you well if you allow them to do so. People diagnosed with BPD will typically experience a number of the symptoms listed above, to a severe degree and over a long period of time.
How is borderline personality disorder treated?
About 80% of people with BPD try in some way to commit suicide. It is important that if you are having any suicidal thoughts you seek help immediately.
Treatment usually involves long-term talk therapy and the teaching of strategies and problem-solving skills to help with managing feelings better and reduce impulsive and self-destructive behaviors. Specific therapies include Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), and, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).
Medications, such as antidepressants, antipsychotics and mood-stabilising drugs may also be used to help manage some of the symptoms of BPD.