When people think of May, certain things usually jump to mind, like flowers, warm temperatures and the upcoming summer months. Today, I would like to make you aware of another May event: Borderline Personality Disorder Awareness Month!
Take a stand. Help end the stigma. You can help in the efforts to raise awareness just by educating yourself.
When I, personally, think about BPD it takes me to the future.
I work with emotional behavioral disorder children ages 8-12. Children become EBD for roughly 3 different reasons: Genetics, environmental factors, or brain abnormalities. Consequently, these are also the 3 conditions that cause BPD. Since all patients must be 18 or older to be diagnosed with any personality disorder, thinking about BPD takes me to the future of the students I work with every day. Being EBD raises their chances of becoming BPD, significantly.
People with borderline personality disorder have incredible challenges when dealing with others and themselves because they have inflexible negative behavior patterns, an unstable self-image, uncontrollable emotions, and impulsivity. Their condition is due to the above stated combination of genes, a childhood environment of abuse, turbulence and/or neglect, and erratic biochemistry.
You may be encountering a person with borderline personality disorder if you confront this type of behavior:
1) You are idealized sometimes as the greatest person alive, while at other times you are seen as the worst person. People with BPD often have skewed views of people, whether they be acquaintances or people that are an everyday part of their lives.
2) The person’s sense of self is distorted. The person doesn’t truly understand who he or she really is, so he or she tries on different behaviors. It is not uncommon for them to be distant, authoritative, friendly or hostile with the same person in the same day.
3) The person frantically tries to avoid what she considers abandonment. The person may act overly needy when their support system is removed, even temporarily, such as when a close friend goes on vacation.
4) The person tries to kill him — or herself or engages in self-mutilation. If you witness this behavior in anyone, immediately call 911.
5) The person is intensely reactive to situations or events that most people would just ignore or brush off. My patient’s reaction to the positive news about her cancer is a good example. Another example is the way a person with BPD might obsess about a situation or statement. If someone tells this individual something in an angry way, then he or she might keep thinking about the statement obsessively and cannot “let it go.”
6) He or she constantly feels empty or not really there. My patient reported these feelings of emptiness many times and often thought she wasn’t really in this world.
7) Anger is their most common emotion even when other feelings might be more appropriate. For example, when a person with BPD learns he/she has won a game in tennis, he or she might rant about the opponent instead of just enjoying the victory.
8) Paranoid thoughts are common. People with this disorder often become paranoid and imagine that people are “colluding” against them.]
9) These people act impulsively and in self-damaging ways, for example, engaging in compulsive sex, binge-eating or gambling. Because of this, BPD can often be confused with other personality disorders, such as histrionic personality disorder.
If you think a friend, co-worker or family member might be suffering from borderline personality disorder, encourage him or her to seek treatment. The most important tool is not to internalize the person’s behavior, or take it too personally. Remember it’s not about you. People with borderline personality disorder aren’t fully aware of their behavior and the effect on other people. Try to be as sympathetic as you can, but maintain appropriate boundaries to protect yourself.
Family members also suffer in silence. They are isolated and experience guilt, depression, and helplessness. In a survey, 75% of family members were seeing therapists of their own to handle these intense relationships.
Borderline personality disorder is more prevalent in females (75 percent of diagnoses made are in females). It is thought that borderline personality disorder affects approximately 2 percent of the general population.
Like most personality disorders, borderline personality disorder typically will decrease in intensity with age, with many people experiencing few of the most extreme symptoms by the time they are in the 40s or 50s.
Treatment of BPD has improved in recent years. Both individual and group psychotherapy have proven to be at least partially effective for many people with the disorder. In the last fifteen years, a new form of treatment referred to as, ‘Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT),’ has been developed specifically for the treatment of borderline personality disorder; it is a technique that appears to be promising in studies. Medication treatment is many times prescribed based upon the specific symptoms the person presents. Mood stabilizers and antidepressants can assist. Antipsychotic medications may be administered if the person with BPD experiences distortions in thought.
Psychotherapy is the main form of treatment for BPD; there are two main forms of psychotherapy treatments in relation to the disorder:
* Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT): DBT was designed specifically to treat the disorder. Generally conducted through individual, group and phone counseling, DBT uses a skills-based approach to teach you how to regulate your emotions, tolerate distress and improve relationships.
* Transference-focused psychotherapy (TFP): TFP centers on the relationship between you and your therapist – helping you understand the emotions and difficulties inevitably arising in the relationship. You can then use what you have learned in other relationships.
“People with BPD are like people with third degree burns over 90% of their bodies. Lacking emotional skin, they feel agony at the slightest touch or movement.”
― Marsha M. Linehan