Feelings of extreme sensitivity, impulsivity and a rollercoaster of other emotions may seem like something everyone experiences, especially when this happens during the teen years. If, as you get older, you continue to experience unhealthy patterns of thinking, behaving and functioning and are having significant problems in relationships, social activities, school or work, your doctor may begin to suspect that you have a personality disorder.
Symptoms of borderline personality disorder (BPD) sometimes resemble the symptoms of emotional intensity typically experienced during adolescence. Ongoing symptoms such as an intense fear of abandonment, intense anger, and unpredictable mood swings may lead to a BPD diagnosis. While this diagnosis may sound frightening, there are treatments available that can help you to lead a satisfying life.
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Diagnosing Borderline Personality Disorder
If you have borderline personality disorder, being accurately diagnosed with this condition is an important first step toward obtaining treatment that can bring symptoms under control. BPD is characterized by intense and highly changeable moods, a distorted sense of self, efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment and a pattern of unstable relationships. You may have used self-harming behavior, such as cutting, or had recurring thoughts of suicide.
Arriving at a diagnosis of BPD is done after a thorough evaluation which includes:
- A physical exam to rule out any medical causes for your symptoms
- A review of family medical history, including any history of mental illness
- A thorough interview with a mental health professional to go over all symptoms
A diagnosis of BPD isn’t the end of the world. Knowing what is causing your emotional challenges makes it possible to learn new coping skills so you can work toward a better life.
At one time, BPD was considered extremely difficult to treat and there were no therapies or data showing that symptoms can remit. Also, there wasn’t a very good understanding of the disorder. People with BPD were seen as manipulative and not wanting to get better. Now it is understood as a disorder of the emotion regulation system.
Newer evidence-based therapies can help you experience fewer or less severe symptoms, so that you can have a better quality of life. Your treatment will need to be planned by a specialized provider who is thoroughly trained in treatment methods that are effective in improving symptoms of BPD.
The best results in treating BPD usually come from a combination of psychotherapy, family and peer support, and medication if indicated. If you have co-occurring conditions, your treatment team will need to address these as well.
How Psychotherapy Improves Symptoms of BPD
Psychotherapy is very effective in treating BPD, because it addresses the emotional challenges you may be having. Your goal will be to learn to master emotional ups and downs by learning new coping skills and gaining acceptance and insight.
Types of psychotherapy that can be helpful in treating BPD include:
- Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT). DBT was designed specifically to treat BPD. It offers a structured program to help you manage painful emotions, reduce suicidal thinking, suicide attempts, and self-harm, decrease conflict in your relationships and improve your ability to accept and be present in the current moment. DBT has been shown to be effective in reducing treatment dropout, anger and suicidal behavior.
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). CBT offers a method of working to change negative thoughts and learning effective coping strategies for dealing with turbulent emotions
- Mentalization Based Therapy (MBT). MBT can help you to explore your emotions and develop alternate ways of interacting with others
Sticking with Treatment
The diagnosis of a personality disorder doesn’t mean you are flawed at your core. As you practice new coping skills, you create new neural pathways in your brain. The more you practice, the stronger these pathways will become.
With time and practice, you can begin to think and act in new and better ways. When you have BPD, getting better takes time, but it is possible as long as you remain committed to getting better and stick with the treatment plan created by your mental health treatment team.
If you or a loved one are struggling with borderline personality disorder of another mental health concern, please contact us at (855) 409-0204 or submit the form below and a treatment specialist will contact you.