What is borderline personality disorder?

Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a mental illness that affects the way a person views themselves and the people around them. People with this illness live with an extreme fear of being alone. They may also resort to desperate acts to avoid being alone.

Causes of borderline personality disorder

There's no single cause of this illness, but genetics and trauma do seem to play a role. It is five times more common in those who have a parent, sibling or child with the illness. Many people with BPD say they were sexually abused as children. There is also some proof that people with BPD have physical differences in the part of the brain that controls emotion.

Risk factors for borderline personality disorder

People with a history of unstable and poor relationships are at a higher risk of developing BPD. Those who receive a diagnosis likely have at least one of the following risk factors in their background:

  • Sex: More than half of people with BPD are women.
  • Family history: Those with a close family member who has this illness are more likely to develop it.
  • Environment: Facing a shocking event, especially sexual abuse or being left alone, as a child increases the odds of developing BPD.
  • Childhood relationships: Children who grow up in homes with hostile conflicts and unstable relationships with family have a higher risk of the disorder.

Symptoms of borderline personality disorder

The first signs of BPD usually appear when a person becomes an adult. Even normal events can trigger them, like not getting a call back from a friend or going to a party. Signs and their severity vary from person to person. Those with BPD may show the following symptoms:

  • Alternating periods of liking and hating other people
  • Cutting off communication from people to avoid being abandoned by them
  • Feeling bored and empty
  • Feeling disconnected from one's self
  • Frantic attempts to avoid being alone
  • Hard time trusting others
  • Having a poor self-image
  • Impulsive and reckless behavior
  • Quickly changing interests and values
  • Starting relationships quickly
  • Seeing people and events as either all good or all bad
  • Sudden mood swings
  • Thoughts of suicide or self-harm

Diagnosis of borderline personality disorder

A mental health expert can spot BPD in a patient. They start by talking with the patient to discuss symptoms and health history. The patient undergoes a health exam to rule out other likely causes of the symptoms.

Treatments for borderline personality disorder

Treatments for BPD include therapy and medication. The goal of therapy is to teach the patient how to control emotions and manage thoughts. Dialectical behavior therapy is the preferred treatment program for this condition. This program combines personal therapy sessions and group meetings that focus on developing mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotional control and communication. If DBT is not an option in a specific area, other types of therapy can also treat BPD.

There is no medication specifically for this illness. However, patients with BPD often have other mental illnesses that medicine can treat. Illnesses like anxiety and depression respond to medication. Some patients may need hospital care to stabilize their moods.

Recovery from borderline personality disorder

The prognosis for BPD used to be grim. New treatment methods have changed that. Patients should follow the treatment team's guidelines. Attending therapy sessions regularly and taking medicine as prescribed can help reduce how often the symptoms occur and how severe they are. Remission is common in patients who seek out and follow through with treatment. It can take some time to improve your well-being with therapy and medication. It's important to stick with treatment even if you don't see results right away..