Raising Awareness: Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)

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Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is a mental illness that is often misunderstood. Despite the complex nature of this condition, treatment is possible and can be effective.

This article takes a look at:

  • Borderline personality disorder facts
  • Borderline personality disorder symptoms
  • Borderline personality disorder causes
  • Treatment options

Borderline personality disorder facts

The signs and symptoms of BPD can be similar to those of other mental illnesses, which can make it difficult to understand. Roughly 5.9% of adults experience BPD and compare it to being on an emotional rollercoaster.

Unfortunately, despite BPD being reasonably common, it also comes with severe stigma and negative baggage. Here are a few facts you should know:

  • More people have BPD than schizophrenia and bipolar disorder combined.
  • People with BPD commit suicide at 400 times the rate of the general population.
  • BPD is more prevalent in women than men.
  • BPD is the third leading cause of death for young adult women between 15-24.

Borderline Personality Disorder Awareness Month aims to end the stigma around the condition, and encourage those to get help when they need it.

So what exactly is borderline personality disorder?

BPD presents in a variety of contexts, which are indicated by five or more of the following symptoms:

  • Efforts to avoid abandonment
  • Emotional instability
  • Feelings of emptiness
  • Identity disturbances
  • Impulsive behaviors
  • Inappropriate, intense anger
  • Unstable interpersonal relationships
  • Suicidal or self-harming behaviors
  • Transient (quickly passing) paranoid or dissociative symptoms

Diagnosis can be tricky because many of the symptoms above overlap with other mental health disorders. And because many symptoms include extreme emotions and impulsive behaviors, it’s common for someone with BPD to also have a substance abuse issue.

The best way to receive a diagnosis for BPD is through a comprehensive evaluation by a mental health professional, which involves a thorough assessment.

What causes borderline personality disorder?

Researchers haven't identified one single cause of BPD. However, the following elements may play a role in the development of the disorder:

Genetics. People with a close family member, like a parent or a sibling, may be at increased risk for BPD.

Neurobiological factors. Researchers have found that people with borderline personality disorder may have differences in the part of their brain responsible for controlling emotions and impulses. But it’s not clear whether these changes are the cause of BPD or a result of the disorder.

Environmental factors. People with BPD often have a history of trauma, including physical, emotional, sexual abuse, ACEs (adverse childhood experiences), or exposure to violence. However, it's important to note that not everyone with BPD has had traumatic experiences. On the other hand, many people who have experienced them don't necessarily develop BPD.

Treatment for BPD

Although BPD can often feel like a painful cycle that’s impossible to escape, there are effective treatments available that can help you cope, learn new skills, and feel in control of your thoughts, feelings, and actions.

Treatment options may include:

  • Psychotherapy: This is a standard treatment for BPD and can include DBT (dialectical behavioral therapy) or CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy).
  • Medication: There is no specific prescription for personality disorders. However, medicines can improve particular symptoms and aid with co-occurring problems, like anxiety and depression.

What works for one person may not work for another—so it's essential to develop the right treatment plan with a professional. With appropriate support, many people with BPD can maintain healthy, joyful relationships and lead fulfilling lives.