While it remains one of the lesser-known personality disorders, Borderline Personality Disorder affects many children and adults. Chances are that you probably already know someone who is borderline. This person cycles through moods that lead to impulsive behaviors, especially when it comes to interpersonal relationships. Many with borderline personality are known to be “bridge burners” who sabotage their relationships with others in a cyclical pattern of pulling them in and pushing them away. While this disorder is difficult to diagnose, it is not impossible to effectively treat the symptoms. If you have a loved one with borderline personality, there is hope for them and for you to establish and maintain a healthy relationship with them.
What Is Borderline Personality Disorder?
Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is a serious and often life-long personality disorder that causes extreme mood swings and impulsive behaviors. Someone with BPD will take every measure that they can think of to avoid being abandoned, whether it is a real possibility or merely a misconception. Of course, this type of behavior can push other people away and ultimately become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
BPD seems to manifest more predominantly in women, as about BPD of diagnosed cases of BPD are in females. The most serious symptoms tend to show up during young adulthood, which is when the risk for suicide is at its peak. Those with BPD do have a tendency to self-harm or threaten self-harm, but this is not the case for everyone. As the individual gets older, the risk seems to generally diminish.
BPD is a serious disorder that can result in inpatient hospitalization. This is especially true for young adults with BPD who exhibit self-injurious behavior. BPD requires extensive treatment but is indeed treatable.
Symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder
One of the most noticeable personality traits of someone with BPD is that they never seem to have consistent hobbies, values, and relationships with others. This tends to hinge upon how they view themselves in relation to the world and people around them, and this is subject to change with the occurrence of mood swings.
A diagnosis of BPD can be issued by a licensed practitioner if the individual meets the following criteria:
- Makes erratic efforts to avoid real or perceived abandonment by others
- Has a cyclical pattern of unstable relationships with others in which they cycle between idealizing and devaluing the other person
- Has an unstable self-perception
- Engages in at least two impulsive and self-destructive behaviors (sex, excessive spending or gambling, careless driving, substance abuse, or binge eating)
- Repeatedly experiences or expresses suicidal behaviors or ideations
- Experiences brief but intense mood instability (such as anxiety or irritability)
- Chronically feeling empty or hopeless
- Experiences difficulty in controlling their anger or has inappropriate anger
- Experiences serious dissociative symptoms or paranoid ideation that is triggered by stress
Not all of these symptoms will manifest the same in every person. For example, it is possible for someone to be borderline without attempting to self-harm. Serious cases of BPD can involve the person consistently getting physically aggressive with others.
Causes of Borderline Personality Disorder
As of right now, researchers have yet to determine a singular cause of BPD. All of the BPD that have been done seem to suggest that a mix of biological, psychological, and social factors play a role in BPD. Those with a family member (especially a parent) with BPD are at an elevated risk of also having BPD. Studies have also shown that those with BPD have structural differences in the brain due to the excess amount of BPD. Additionally, traumatic life events (such as being abandoned by a parent or being abused as a child) can contribute to the severity of borderline symptoms.
Other Issues Related to Borderline Personality Disorder
If you have a loved one with BPD, you’re probably wondering how you can most effectively deal with their extreme behaviors. You’ve probably been told that everything is your fault and that you’re either perfect or completely horrible. How can you respond to these things? The most important things to remember are that you did not cause these behaviors to happen and that you cannot control or cure this person.
Those with BPD can benefit from having someone listen to them, let them know they’re being heard, and that you do sympathize with them. They are expressing emotions, so pay attention to those and not just the words they use. Remind them that there is no shame in seeking therapy. If you witness self-destructive behavior and fear that this person might try to commit suicide, you should call for help immediately.
Borderline Personality Disorder Treatment Options
Psychotherapy tends to be the go-to style of treatment for those with BPD. While it can be difficult to treat, there are some newer methods that are yielding positive results. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) are the two most widely-used forms of psychotherapy used to treat those with BPD. CBT can help someone with BPD identify the irrationality in their thoughts and find ways to more realistically and constructively deal with the relationships in their lives. DBT teaches acceptance of one’s symptoms and coaches individuals on practicing mindfulness, allowing them to harness control over their behaviors.
Borderline Personality Disorder Examples
In recent years, several celebrities and athletes have come out and spoken about living with BPD. Brandon Marshall, the wide receiver for the Chicago Bears, opened up about receiving treatment for his symptoms and how it has helped him live a more fulfilling life. Similarly, comedian Doug Ferrari has worked through his BPD and substance abuse issues and finds that comedy is therapeutic for him.
As Marshall and Ferrari show us, there is hope for those with BPD. Although there is no cure, BPD can be successfully managed with the right type of therapy and support from loved ones. If you or your loved one are living with BPD, there is no shame in reaching out for help in dealing with this difficult disorder.