- Some hallmarks of borderline personality disorder (BPD) involve wide mood swings, varying self-image, and resulting behavioral problems that especially affect relationships.
- According to the National Institutes of Mental Health, scientists aren’t sure what causes BPD, but a combination of family history, brain factors, and environmental factors may all play a role.
- BPD can only be diagnosed by a professional, and ongoing psychotherapy is currently regarded as the most effective approach to BPD management and improved quality of life.
- Family and friends of someone suffering from BPD are an important support system. In this case, knowledge is very much power to deal with this difficult and often frustrating condition.
That may sound incredibly simple, but ask anyone who either has BPD or knows someone who has BPD and you’ll find that it’s anything but “simple.”
With BPD and other mental health issues, it’s important to seek qualified professional help and guidance if at all possible – although unfortunately, sometimes available resources don’t permit this.
If you notice that someone you care about is struggling, it is on all of us to offer our support and understanding to break down the social stigmas that seem to swirl around even discussing this stuff.
Here’s the current best estimate of the number of BPD sufferers in the US
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Additionally, NAMI says that 75% of sufferers of BPD are women, but as Mayo Clinic psychiatry professor Dr. Brian Palmer pointed out, that number comes from clinical samples. He stated in this presentation that, in community samples, the gender breakdown tends to be more evenly split.
Misdiagnoses are common with BPD, but there are some symptoms that can be indicative of this disorder.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), people with BPD may experience mood swings, fluctuating interests and values, and a tendency to see things in extremes – either entirely good or all bad. They might also experience shifting feelings which can lead to unstable relationships.
The NIMH also lists the following signs and symptoms as indicators of BPD:
- Efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment, such as rapidly initiating intimate (physical or emotional) relationships or cutting off communication with someone in anticipation of being abandoned
- A pattern of intense and unstable relationships with family, friends, and loved ones, often swinging from extreme closeness and love (idealization) to extreme dislike or anger (devaluation)
- Distorted and unstable self-image or sense of self
- Impulsive and often dangerous behaviors, such as spending sprees, unsafe sex, substance abuse, reckless driving, and binge eating. Please note: If these behaviors occur primarily during a period of elevated mood or energy, they may be signs of a mood disorder-not borderline personality disorder
- Self-harming behavior, such as cutting
- Recurring thoughts of suicidal behaviors or threats
- Intense and highly changeable moods, with each episode lasting from a few hours to a few days
- Chronic feelings of emptiness
- Inappropriate, intense anger or problems controlling anger
- Difficulty trusting, which is sometimes accompanied by irrational fear of other people’s intentions
- Feelings of dissociation, such as feeling cut off from oneself, seeing oneself from outside one’s body, or feelings of unreality
Note that you or a loved one need not show every symptom on this list and that only a professional can give you an accurate diagnosis.
A person can battle BPD while also battling additional conditions that require treatments of their own.
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According to NAMI, a person with BPD may also simultaneously be dealing with a range of other conditions, from bipolar disorder to depression to eating disorders to substance abuse.
Because it can be so complicated and tricky to manage, it’s extremely important to try to get professional help if you or someone you care about is trying to carry this exhausting mental health burden alone.
Psychotherapy is currently the most effective treatment for BPD.
Patients undergoing DBT typically see their therapist for a normal one-on-one session, and then also participate in a group session during the week. The two sessions work together to teach and reinforce effective coping skills for individuals who are battling BPD.
In this video, licensed therapist Kati Morton offers a brief outline of the four pillars of DBT: mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotion regulation, and interpersonal effectiveness.
It’s important to note that self-harm and attempted suicide rates are higher among BPD sufferers than in the general population.
Dr. John M. Oldham, an expert in personality disorders and professor of psychiatry in the Menninger department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Baylor College of Medicine wrote in the American Journal of Psychiatry that an estimated 60 to 70% of individuals diagnosed with BPD make suicide attempts.
According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, no complete record of suicide attempts among the general population in the US is currently kept. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does, HOWEVER, collect data from hospitals on non-fatal injuries that resulted from self-harm. Specific information varies by demographic, but collective rates of attempts were under 20% as of 2016, which was the most recent data available.
It’s tough for family and friends of someone struggling with BPD, too – here’s how you can help your loved one and yourself.
Understanding and supporting someone going through something as volatile and difficult as BPD isn’t always easy – but it can be done.
NAMI has some helpful tips for anyone who is supporting someone with BPD. Since this adds additional stress to your life, you may also want to consider seeking therapy for yourself if you aren’t already regularly seeing a therapist.
If you are struggling with mental illness and need help finding treatment, visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or call their free 24/7 helpline at 1-800-662-HELP.
Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more.