Updated: Mar 9
Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is one of the lesser understood mental health disorders. It is surprisingly common, indeed one of the most common personality disorders in Australia. It affects up to 4 in every 100 people at some time in their lives. It can be distressing for the person with BPD and the people around them.
But BPD can be exceedingly difficult for other people to understand. I will endeavour to explain this disorder and see if I can address the stressors for those who suffer from this concern. Now this is my researched and observed opinion. I am of course open to your feedback on the topic.
A closer look at Borderline Personality Disorder?
Borderline Personality Disorder is a common mental health disorder that can be treated. It affects people's thoughts, emotions, and behaviours, making it difficult for them to cope in all areas of life. We all have our own perspective about the world, but a person with BPD has a different view of themselves and the environment around them which is detrimental to their overall wellbeing. It is a mental health concern that makes it hard for a person to feel comfortable in themselves, causes problems controlling emotions, impulses, and other subsequent behaviours. It also causes big problems relating to others.
With BPD, you have an intense fear of abandonment or instability, and you may have difficulty being alone. Inappropriate anger, impulsiveness and frequent mood swings may push others away, even though you want to have loving, long and happy relationships.
BPD usually begins by early adulthood. The condition seems to be worse in young adulthood and may gradually get better with age.
There are many symptoms associated with BPD, but not everyone has all of them. One person's BPD symptoms may be quite different to another.
Signs and symptoms include:
- An intense fear of abandonment, even going to extreme measures to avoid real or imagined separation or rejection.
- A pattern of unstable intense relationships.
- Rapid changes in self-identity and self-image, which may include constantly changing goals and values, and seeing yourself as a bad person.
- Periods of stress-related paranoia and loss of contact with reality, lasting from a few minutes to a few hours.
- Impulsive and risky behavior, such as gambling, reckless driving, unsafe sex, spending sprees, binge eating or drug abuse, or sabotaging success by suddenly quitting a good job or ending a positive relationship.
- Suicidal threats or self-harm, often in response to fear of separation or rejection.
- Wide mood swings lasting from a few hours to a few days, which can include intense happiness, irritability, shame, anxiety, or depression.
- Ongoing feelings of emptiness.
- Feeling that one does not exist at all.
- Inappropriate, intense anger, frequent explosive outbursts, being sarcastic, or becoming physically violent.
There is no test for BPD. It can only be diagnosed by a mental health professional after talking to the person and getting to know them. It could take several sessions to be sure of the diagnosis, as some of the symptoms of BPD mirror other mental health conditions.
What causes BPD and can it be treated?
The actual causes of borderline personality disorder have not been completely identified. It is probably caused by a combination of genes, neurological make up, and life experiences. Having another mental health condition could contribute to BPD. Being overly sensitive or suffering physical or emotional abuse or neglect during childhood may contribute to some people developing BPD. But not everyone with these factors will develop BPD. Some research has shown neurological changes in certain areas of the brain involved in emotion regulation, impulsiveness and aggression contribute to BPD. There are also biological reasons as well. Certain feel-good chemicals may not be released from the glands in the brain and body which can also play a significant role.
As you can see, it can be trauma, genetics, or brain irregularities that cause BPD. If someone has BPD, they did not decide to have it, they are not to blame for it, and they did not cause it, so you cannot tell them JUST SNAP OUT OF IT.
If you feel that you or someone you know has any of the signs or symptoms of BPD, then talk to your doctor or a mental health practitioner.
Currently there is no specific medication to treat BPD, but the good news is that BPD is treatable. Several forms of psychotherapy are employed with great results, such as:
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) can assist people with BPD to work on one’s values and beliefs that are negatively and destructively impacting on their lives.
Dialectical behavioural therapy (DBT) has been specifically developed for BPD and includes individual and group therapy and mindfulness training.
In severe cases, a person with BPD may require hospitalisation. This normally would only be a short-term measure for those who are at risk of harming themselves or others. But this is no different to other forms of mental illnesses.
Most people with BPD recover from their symptoms. Most people find that their symptoms improve within a few years after getting the diagnosis. Many people achieve a good social life and work life once treatment starts.
How can I help?
There a seven things people living with BPD want you to know. This link will provide you with some information. The best thing you can do is to understand this disorder and be there to help someone with BPD. BPD is often wrongly associated with neediness, manipulation, and aggressive behaviours. Folks can experience emptiness or a lost and need to cling to a relationship which they fear will be taken from them. They are often unsure about their long-term goals for relationships and jobs. These emotions are strongly felt, and we must try to understand and validate them and accept that what they are feeling is real for them.
We can support people with BPD to get treatment, through their GP, or through your local mental health service. If you need someone to talk to, or want to find out more online, here are some organisations that might be able to help:
· Lifeline 13 11 14 — for anyone in crisis
· ReachOut (youth mental health service) — online help
On a positive note, to wrap up this information summary, there was a great article recently on ABC News that gives a rich account of the lived experience. You'll agree, Odette has made a successful life for herself as she manages her BPD.
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