Every person has different patterns of thought, feelings, emotions, and behaviors. The combination of these factors makes up a person’s personality. Unlike mood disorders, personality disorders focus on a person’s ability to form connections and relate to others. Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a persistent mental health condition characterized by long-term patterns of unstable or manic emotions. Individuals that have borderline personality disorder often struggle to form healthy relationships with others because of this. Borderline personality disorder can affect how an individual copes with life’s challenges, understands personal emotions, and manages their relationships.
Signs & Symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder
People with BPD often struggle to understand their own identities. They may take their emotions to extremes, perceiving situations to be either all good or all bad at any given time. Additionally, BPD is characterized by emotional instability; people with BPD often change their views of others or themselves quickly, which often leads to intense or volatile relationships. Common signs and symptoms of BPD include:
- Fear of abandonment
- Inappropriate outbursts of anger
- impulsive behavior
- Lack of self-worth
- Inability to control emotions
- Feeling “empty” or numb
- Inability to be alone
- Self-destructive behavior
- Suicidal ideation
- Intense or unstable relationships with others
Understanding the Rollercoaster of BPD
People with BPD experience emotional instability as exaggerated fluctuations in emotions and mood, resulting in very high highs and very low lows. BPD impacts not only how a person views themselves and others; it also affects their preferences and goals. Have you ever felt confused about your sense of self or what makes you, you? While it is normal to question your identity from time to time, people with BPD rarely get to experience moments of comfort with their own identity.
The metaphor of a rollercoaster to illustrate BPD is accurate because, like a rollercoaster, people with BPD are constantly on edge, expecting a sudden shift in their own emotions. People with BPD fear instability and abandonment, and these feelings are only reinforced as they revisit persistent low emotions. It is much more difficult for people with BPD to make and keep friends because the symptoms associated with this condition can cause further distress and difficulty in relating to others.
What Causes BPD?
Like many psychological conditions, healthcare professionals believe borderline personality disorder occurs from a combination of factors.
- Trauma: Traumatic events including sexual, emotional, or physical abuse can contribute to the risk of developing BPD. Abandonment, rejection, and neglect can also play a role.
- Genetics: Borderline personality disorder may run in families. If you have a family history of BPD, you may have a higher risk of developing it.
- Biological Differences: Individuals that have BPD have recognizable differences in the brain, specifically in areas that regulate emotion, behavior, and decision-making. These parts of the brain do not communicate as effectively in people with BPD versus neurotypical populations.
Treatment for Borderline Personality Disorder
Treatment for BPD must be comprehensive. People with BPD may often experience co-occurring conditions such as addiction and substance use. For interventions to be effective, a treatment plan must address and work to heal all conditions at once. The main goals of BPD treatment are for an individual to control their self-destructive behavior, help to manage their emotions, increase their coping skills, and improve their relationships with others.
Treatment may include:
- Psychotherapy: Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectal behavioral therapy (DBT) are both recommended for the treatment of BPD. CBT works to challenge and alter negative thought patterns while DBT does the same with an emphasis on mindfulness techniques. DBT is the leading treatment for BPD. It is crucial for individuals suffering from BPD to first learn healthy ways to cope with emotional distress in a therapeutic setting, then practice these skills and apply them in their daily lives.
- Medication: Several prescription medications are available to treat some of the symptoms associated with BPD. Mood stabilizers can help to regulate mood; antidepressants can help increase feelings of well-being and fight experiences of dysphoria. In some cases, antipsychotics are also used to help regulate paranoia or other forms of disorganized thought.
- Trauma Therapy: If an individual has unresolved trauma, exposure therapy or somatic experiencing may be used to help them cope. This can be an initial step in healing from the distressing symptoms associated with BPD.
- Combinations of Psychotherapy and Medicine: For many mental health conditions, the most effective treatment option is to combine medication and psychotherapy. Medication can help reduce symptoms enough that an individual is ready and able to work through their emotional distress in a therapeutic setting. Although medication is not always necessary, this option serves an important purpose for people that could otherwise not discuss their trauma or other issues without overwhelming physical or psychological distress.
Borderline personality disorder is a persistent mental health condition that causes volatile emotions, leading to unstable relationships. While mood disorders are characterized by an individual’s emotional patterns, personality disorders are characterized by the qualities of a person’s relationships with others. Borderline personality disorder often leads to an inability to build and maintain relationships. BPD can be thought of as a rollercoaster of emotions, with very high highs and very low lows. Treatment for BPD may include psychotherapy, medication, trauma therapy, or a combination of interventions. West Coast Recovery Centers works with individuals struggling with mental health conditions and addiction. We offer many services to help individuals heal from their battle with mood and personality disorders, including borderline personality disorder. We believe clients must receive individualized treatment plans, as everyone experiences different levels of distress from their symptoms. For more information about the services we offer, call us today at (760) 492-6509.