Borderline Personality Disorder

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Borderline Personality Disorder

What is borderline personality disorder?

People with borderline personality disorder experience variations in mood, behavior, and self-image. Episodes of intense emotion may last hours or days. Oftentimes, symptoms of the condition can result in problems with interpersonal relationships or impulsive actions. Those with borderline personality disorder may feel like their life is a rollercoaster, with constantly shifting emotions and unstable relationships.

Is borderline personality disorder related to other conditions?

While borderline personality disorder is not thought to cause any conditions, many people with the condition are co-diagnosed with other illnesses. These may include eating disorders, anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues. It’s important to seek treatment from a mental health professional who understands borderline personality disorder in relation to any other conditions you may have.

Causes

What causes borderline personality disorder?

While the causes of borderline personality disorder are still not entirely clear to the medical community, some risk factors have been identified. Individuals who possess one or more of these risk factors may have a higher chance of developing the condition. While genetics and environmental factors both play a role in the onset of borderline personality disorder, researchers have identified the following as risk factors:

  • Brain structure and function: People with borderline personality disorder exhibit functional and structural changes in the brain. These changes are particularly notable in the areas of the brain that deal with emotional regulation and impulse control. However, it is unclear whether these patterns are the cause of the condition or merely a result.
  • Family history: If you have a first-degree relative with borderline personality disorder, you may be at a higher risk of developing the condition yourself.
  • Environmental factors: Childhood is a particularly formative time, and many people with borderline personality disorder report experiencing adversity and trauma during their youth. Exposure to conflicts or unstable relationships from a young age may also increase one’s risk of developing borderline personality disorder.

It’s important to note that the presence of one or more of these risk factors does not mean you will develop borderline personality disorder. Furthermore, there are many individuals without any of the above risk factors who do go on to develop the condition.

Can borderline personality disorder develop later in life?

Borderline personality disorder generally develops earlier in a person’s life. However, there are some instances in which older adults begin to show symptoms of the condition for the first time. These cases generally occur when the individual has experienced a loss of support or other problem that can trigger a late-onset.

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Symptoms

What are the symptoms of borderline personality disorder?

The symptoms of borderline personality disorder involve a variety of shifts concerning yourself, your relationships with others, and your behavior. The main symptoms include:

  • Fear of abandonment
  • Unstable relationships
  • Shifting self-image
  • Impulsive or harmful behaviors
  • Self-harm or suicidal tendencies
  • Unrelenting feelings of emptiness
  • Intense anger and emotional outbursts
  • Paranoia
  • Dissociation from reality

How does borderline personality disorder affect a person’s life?

Because of these symptoms, people with borderline personality disorder often experience complications in their personal lives. These complications come in many forms, but some of the most common are:

  • Conflict-filled or abusive relationships
  • Constant job changes
  • Legal issues
  • Difficulty completing an education
  • Self-injury and hospitalization
  • And more

Diagnosis

How is borderline personality disorder diagnosed?

Borderline personality disorder can be diagnosed by a trained mental health professional, which may be a psychiatrist, licensed clinical social worker, or a psychologist. In order to properly diagnose the condition, your doctor will first perform a physical exam and inquire about your symptoms. This step allows them to rule out any physical ailments. They may also ask about your family’s medical history. During the course of this appointment, the licensed mental health professional will be able to determine whether or not borderline personality disorder is an appropriate diagnosis.

Treatment

Can borderline personality disorder be treated?

With effective treatment and condition management, many people with borderline personality disorder experience a sharp decline in symptoms related to the condition. It’s important that people with borderline personality disorder receive appropriate intervention in the form of a properly trained medical provider. This will ensure the most effective treatment possible. Remember that the length of time between beginning treatment and seeing positive changes is highly variable and dependent on each case. It’s important for those in treatment and their support systems to remain patient and optimistic during this time.

How is borderline personality disorder treated?

There are a variety of approaches used in treating borderline personality disorder. The most common techniques used are:

  • Psychotherapy: Psychotherapy is the main form of treatment used to address borderline personality disorder. It can also help you work through related illnesses. A variety of psychotherapeutic techniques are used in treatment, including dialectical behavior therapy and schema-focused therapy.
  • Medications: The United States Food and Drug Administration has yet to approve any pharmaceutical for borderline personality disorder. However, certain medications are used in the treatment of co-occurring illnesses, such as depression and anxiety. Your doctor may also prescribe medications if you are experiencing suicidal tendencies.
  • Hospitalization: There may be instances in which hospitalization is needed to keep you safe from self-harm. This treatment can be conducted at a clinic or psychiatric hospital.
  • Self-help: In addition to receiving proper care from a mental health professional, there are several steps you can take at home to help better manage the symptoms of borderline personality disorder. These tips include:
  1. Learning to observe your emotions from the outside rather than acting on them.
  2. Stimulate one of your senses when you feel an emotional outburst coming on. 
  3. Avoid alcohol and drugs.
  4. Reduce stress levels when possible.
  5. Eat a well-balanced, nutritious diet.
  6. Get plenty of rest and exercise.
  7. Practice meditation and mindfulness exercises.
  8. Distract yourself when necessary by calling a friend, gardening, etc.

Each person’s treatment path is different. You’ll have to experiment to find which methods work for you and your borderline personality disorder symptoms. Remember that recovery takes time. Learning to manage your thoughts, behaviors, and emotions is a process that doesn’t happen overnight. While therapy and mindfulness can help manage your condition, you may always struggle with residual symptoms. However, when you seek treatment, you’re already on the path to improving your health and well-being.

Information

Medically reviewed by:

Dr Roy Kedem, MD

Dr Zenon Andreou studied medicine at University College London, graduating in 2006. His postgraduate training was in hospitals in and around London and he trained for four years in Otolaryngology before completing his training in General practice

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