Borderline Personality Disorder: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment
What is borderline personality disorder?
People with BPD have difficulty regulating their emotions. As a result, they typically experience intense and inappropriate outbursts of anger, turbulent relationships, and extreme mood swings. In relationships, those with BPD often swing between intense feelings of love and closeness, known as idealization, to extreme dislike or anger, called devaluation. Therefore, understanding Borderline Personality Disorder can be challenging for the family and friends of those with BPD.
Know the Facts
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 80 percent of people with BPD have a history of suicide attempts.
How is BPD diagnosed?
No single definitive test exists for determining whether a young adult has Borderline Personality Disorder and often times the symptoms of BPD can be confused with normal adolescent behavior. Consequently, a BPD assessment may involve:
- A comprehensive interview with the patient
- Discussion with their previous clinicians
- A review of the patient’s psychological history and any previous medical evaluations
- Interviews with family members and friends.
Here are 13 of the most common symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder in young adults:
- Seeing things in extremes—as black and white, good or bad
- Lacking a stable sense of identity and self-image
- Difficulty reading others’ emotions
- Intense fear of abandonment, whether real or imagined, and efforts to avoid it
- Extreme impulsivity, often leading to risky behaviors such as substance abuse, unsafe sex, binge eating, and dangerous driving
- Having a hard time trusting others
- Constantly shifting moods
- Inability to maintain healthy relationships
- Volatile, uncontrollable bursts of anger
- Feelings of emptiness, boredom, and ennui
- Irritable, anxious, or depressed moods that can last for a few hours or for several days
- Self-harming behaviors, including suicidal thoughts, threats of suicide, or suicide attempts
- Dissociative episodes—disconnecting from one’s sense of self and experiencing a feeling of unreality.
Why do more women have BPD?
According to the American Psychiatric Association, there is a 3:1 female to male gender ratio for this mental disorder. Borderline personality traits in females may manifest differently and more intensely than they do in men. For women, common co-occurring disorders associated with BPD include debilitating depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and PTSD. Men with BPD often experience intense anger, paranoia, passive-aggressive, and antisocial personality disorders. Further, men are more likely to have co-occurring substance abuse disorder, which may make it more difficult to diagnose BPD.
What causes Borderline Personality Disorder?
Researchers have identified three areas that appear to contribute to BPD. Before you or a loved one begins treatment for BPD, it’s important to understand the leading causes –genetics, brain function, and environmental factors.
BPD runs in families. In fact, Borderline Personality Disorder is five times more common among those who have a relative with BPD. However, scientists have not yet identified a specific BPD gene.
Studies show that people with BPD have abnormalities in the part of the brain that regulates emotions, makes decisions, and controls impulses. In fact, some research suggests that as many as 60 percent of BPD diagnoses stem from damage in these areas of the brain.
People with BPD often have a history of childhood trauma, such as physical abuse, sexual abuse, extreme stress, neglect, and/or abandonment. In one study, 44 percent of people with BPD had experienced childhood sexual abuse.
Can BPD treatment help?
Studies show that treatment for BPD can result in long-term remission from symptoms. Effective BPD treatment works to uncover and heal traumatic experiences, while also supporting patients to find new ways to regulate their emotions and moods.
In addition, due to the emotional dysregulation and lack of impulse control characteristic of BPD, Borderline Personality Disorder in young adults often results in substance abuse disorder, self-harming behaviors, and eating disorders. Hence, treatment for BPD includes treating these co-occurring disorders as an essential part of the young adult’s treatment plan.
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Care at Newport Institute
As one of the highest-quality BPD treatment centers, Newport Institute uses an integrated treatment model that combines evidence-based clinical modalities with experiential therapies and life-skills training. Whether a young adult chooses residential treatment for BPD, a partial hospitalization program, or intensive outpatient treatment, they’ll work with a team of experts versed in the latest approaches to BPD treatment.
A quiet mind will be an effective mind. At Newport Institute we are teaching this state of calmness of the mind outside of conflict and then walking our patients through to be able to reach that state of mind even in conflict.
Dr. Michel Mennesson, MD
BPD Treatment Approaches for Young Adults
- Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT): DBT provides young adults with specific skills for enhancing self-awareness and emotion regulation. Hence, this approach is particularly relevant to Borderline Personality Disorder. These skills can be used immediately, and become stronger the more they’re practiced. The success rates for DBT show that it is one of the most effective approaches for treating Borderline Personality Disorder.
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): CBT supports young adults with Borderline Personality Disorder in identifying the emotions that result in a sense of isolation—a common symptom of BPD. In addition, CBT can give young adults ways to reframe their patterns of thinking in order to move away from self-defeating thoughts and assumptions that make life more difficult. Furthermore, Trauma-Focused CBT can help BPD patients address the childhood trauma that often underlies the disorder.
- Mentalization-Based Treatment: Experts believe that people who experienced childhood trauma or disrupted relationships in childhood fail to gain the ability known as mentalization. Mentalization refers to recognizing one’s own and others’ mental and emotional state as separate from behaviors and actions. Hence, this approach to BPD treatment helps young adults recognize the thoughts, desires, and emotions that impact their behaviors.
- Experiential Therapies: At Newport Institute, we provide opportunities for young adults to heal through experiential modalities, such as art therapy, music therapy, Adventure Therapy, and Equine-Assisted Therapy. These approaches offer ways for young people with Borderline Personality Disorder to build self-esteem, process and release traumatic experiences, develop empathy, and practice collaborating with others.
- Yoga: Research shows that yoga practice supports emotion regulation skills, making it a powerful addition to a young adult’s treatment plan for Borderline Personality Disorder. In addition, yoga supports trauma treatment and catalyzes the nervous system’s relaxation response, enhancing overall well-being.
Effective BPD treatment at Newport Institute addresses Borderline Personality Disorder in young adults using a multi-pronged approach. As one of the nation’s leading BPD treatment centers, our team includes psychiatrists, clinical therapists, medical professionals, experiential practitioners, dietitians, and life-skills counselors. We work together to help young adults with BPD develop the self-understanding, healthy coping mechanisms, and find the inner-strength they need to create a fulfilling and meaningful life.
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