Personality disorders are ways of feeling, thinking and behaving that cause problems with day-to-day functioning and last over time. Those who have these disorders think and act in ways that deviate from the expectations of society. A person with a personality disorder has difficulty relating to people and situations. Other people may find their behavior odd, which can make it hard to make connections.
Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a type of personality disorder characterized by emotional extremes, impulsiveness, unstable relationships and distorted self-image. Because it is a personality disorder, patterns of thinking can be complicated and deeply ingrained, which can cause this disorder to be challenging to treat.
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Symptoms of BPD can usually be detected during adolescence. A person with BPD may have a fragile sense of self that damages relationships with other people. They may have an intense fear of abandonment and may view things and people as all good or all bad. They may participate in reckless or dangerous behaviors such as substance abuse, binge eating, dangerous driving or spending sprees, and they may have self-harming behavior or have suicidal tendencies.
One of the things that complicates the diagnosis and treatment of BPD is the fact that symptoms of BPD are often accompanied by symptoms of other forms of mental illness such as posttraumatic stress disorder or mood disorders. It’s not uncommon to have co-occurring conditions such as substance use disorder, eating disorders, anxiety, or depression. Underlying symptoms of BPD may not be obvious when the individual tries to cope by turning to substance abuse or an eating disorder. BPD is diagnosed based on a detailed interview with a doctor or a mental health professional and a thorough psychological evaluation.
Specialized Treatment Options for BPD
A diagnosis of BPD may sound scary or overwhelming, but it’s a treatable condition. Obtaining treatment that can lead to a satisfying life depends on receiving an accurate diagnosis. If co-occurring disorders are treated but BPD is not, mental health problems and challenges will continue.
Medication may be helpful in reducing symptoms of depression or anxiety but aren’t effective in treating core personality traits or challenging behaviors. Specialized treatment is needed in order to work on the core problems that are leading to relationship troubles or poor self-image.
Challenges of Treating BPD
When a person is diagnosed with BPD, they often face social difficulties and stigma. Since challenges in relationships are characteristic of BPD, a person with BPD may drop out of treatment or resist following a treatment plan. They may react to interactions with a therapist with intense anger or other strong emotions.
Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is a form of talk therapy that was developed specifically for treating people with BPD and has been found to be an effective approach for treating many people who have this disorder. It was originally created to treat people who had been diagnosed with BPD and were chronically suicidal or self-destructive. It helps people to overcome seemingly insurmountable challenges by learning skills in mindfulness, interpersonal effectiveness, distress tolerance and emotional regulation.
Family Therapy as Part of the Treatment Plan
Treating BPD requires patience and commitment. While recovery is possible, it takes time and effort. Besides requiring specialized treatment for the patient, family members may benefit from treatment as well.
People with BPD can deeply affect their loved ones, and family members may struggle with their own reactions to the patient’s mood swings and frequently unreasonable demands. Family therapy can help participants to learn new and better ways of interacting that may help all involved.
Treating a person who has BPD may seem challenging at times, but recovery is possible. Evidence-based therapy helps teach the skills needed to manage and cope with this condition in order to build a stable and rewarding life.
If you or a loved one are struggling with BPD or another mental illness, please contact us at (855) 409-0204 or submit the form below and a treatment specialist will contact you.