What is Borderline Personality Disorder?

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Mental Health Series

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is a multifaceted mental health condition that affects a person’s emotions, relationships, and self-image. Individuals with BPD often struggle with intense mood swings, difficulties in forming and maintaining relationships, and challenges in regulating their emotions. In this comprehensive post, we will delve into the intricate aspects of BPD, providing a nuanced understanding of the disorder, along with referenced facts and practical tips to help individuals and their loved ones navigate its complexities.

Understanding Borderline Personality Disorder:

  • Defining BPD:
    Borderline Personality Disorder is characterized by pervasive patterns of instability in interpersonal relationships, self-image, and emotions. It typically manifests in early adulthood and can significantly impact a person’s daily life.
  • Diagnostic Criteria:
    According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), BPD can be diagnosed when an individual exhibits five or more of the following symptoms: intense and unstable relationships, distorted self-image, impulsive behavior, recurrent suicidal behavior or self-harm, chronic feelings of emptiness, intense anger, and paranoid thoughts. Women appear to be diagnosed more often than men.
  • Neurobiological Factors:
    Research suggests that there may be neurobiological factors contributing to BPD, including abnormalities in brain structure and function. Genetic predisposition, early life trauma, and environmental factors also play crucial roles in the development of the disorder.
  • Emotional Dysregulation:
    Emotional dysregulation is a hallmark of BPD, leading to rapid and intense mood swings. Individuals may struggle to manage strong emotions, leading to impulsive behaviors such as self-harm or substance abuse.
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Relationships are a common trigger for people with BPD. People with this disease are more sensitive than usual to being abandoned by their loved ones. This triggers great fear and rage. Individuals with BPD may self-harm, behave impulsively, or attempt suicide if they feel rejected, criticized, or abandoned in their current relationship. If persons with BPD encounter rejection, criticism, or the prospect of abandonment, their interactions with friends, family, and colleagues can potentially trigger or worsen symptoms. These views exist regardless of whether the allegations or behaviors are valid.

Another common trigger is the resurfacing of memories of a traumatic childhood event. Childhood trauma can play a role in both the development of BPD as well as future triggers. Research has shown that people with BPD have higher rates of childhood abuse, such as emotional and physical neglect and sexual abuse. For example, people with BPD may jump to extreme irrational conclusions if they reach out to another person and don’t hear back in a short time. When that happens, their thoughts could spin out of control, this would lead them to conclude that they have nobody they can count on, and because of that, begin to experience intense emotions that may lead to self-harm. It seems that either in their mind or through physical reminders such as seeing a certain person or place, their symptoms can become exacerbated (worsened), and their emotions intensify exponentially. Some now think that this abuse itself is a direct causation of BPD.

Dissociation is seen often in those suffering with BPD. Dissociation is disconnecting from one’s thoughts and feelings or memories and identity, it looks like you are “zoned out.” It you have seen anyone mid-daydream, it is similar to what someone looks like while they are dissociating.

It’s also noteworthy that some research has shown that close to 53% of people with BPD develop a substance use disorder at some point in their lifetimes. Mental health issues, childhood trauma and substance abuse can compound this disorder and make it unmanageable. However, there is always a light at the end of the tunnel.

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How To Cope:

Having BPD is a struggle in itself. Many with this diagnosis will experience additional stigma, both from the people in their lives and the medical professionals that are supposed to be helping them. People with BPD are often labeled as difficult and “untreatable.”

The first step in being able to do so is by identifying what triggers you. Keeping a journal may help you determine what your triggers are, even if they are not obvious. Everyone’s triggers will be distinct and very personal. It is unlikely that people would be able to avoid all triggers, thus therapy can be quite beneficial in learning how to manage these . Unless you have underlying mental health disorders that necessitate medicine, medications are rarely the first line of defense. These can certainly help and allow the individual to work on underlying issues while taking medicine.

Although people with BPD are frequently prescribed antidepressants, antipsychotics, and mood-stabilizing anticonvulsants, no single medication has been legally authorized for the treatment of BPD. According to research, the most effective therapy for BPD is a combination of therapies that help people understand their emotions and react differently to negative thoughts and sensations.

Practical Tips for Coping with BPD:

Psychotherapy:
Evidence-based psychotherapies such as Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) and Schema Therapy have shown effectiveness in treating BPD. These therapies focus on improving emotional regulation, interpersonal skills, and coping mechanisms, which are key factors. The following modalities have been found successful in helping people manage BPD:

  • Dialectical behavior therapy – similar to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, DBT uses mindfulness, acceptance, and emotion-regulation strategies (like meditation and challenging negative thoughts) to change negative thinking patterns and make positive behavioral changes.
  • Mentalization-based treatment – helps a person with BPD develop a more positive perception of the thoughts and feelings in their mind and the minds of others to improve interpersonal interactions.
  • Schema-focused therapy – helps to identify toxic patterns and/or coping mechanisms that a person may have developed as a child and replace them with healthier ones.
  • Transference-focused psychotherapy – this is aimed at building and exploring aspects of a relationship with the aid of a therapist to change how relationships are experienced.

    Medication:
    While medication alone is not a primary treatment for BPD, certain medications may be prescribed to alleviate specific or other symptoms, such as mood stabilizers or antidepressants. If your provider wants to “cure” your BPD with medication, I recommend that you seek a second opinion.

    Building a Support System:
    Establishing a strong support system is crucial for individuals with BPD. This may include friends, family, or support groups. Educating loved ones about BPD can enhance understanding and empathy.

    Mindfulness and Self-Care:
    Practices like mindfulness meditation and self-care activities can help individuals with BPD become more aware of their emotions and develop healthier coping mechanisms. Here are 10 of the easiest ways to practice self-care.

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    Healthy Boundaries:
    Learning to set and maintain healthy boundaries is essential for individuals with BPD. This involves understanding personal limits and communicating them effectively in relationships. Setting and maintaining healthy boundaries is easier said than done. If you need help creating healthy boundaries, please do not hesitate to notify your treatment team. Here is a short list of what healthy boundaries looks like:

    TypeDescriptionExample
    Physical BoundariesLimits on physical touch and personal space.Clearly communicating discomfort with unsolicited hugs.
    Emotional BoundariesRespecting and protecting emotions, not taking on others’ emotional burdens.Declining to absorb a friend’s constant negativity.
    Time BoundariesPrioritizing and managing one’s time effectively.Politely declining additional work when already busy.
    Intellectual BoundariesRespecting differing opinions and beliefs.Agreeing to disagree without escalating arguments.
    Material BoundariesSetting limits on possessions or lending.Politely refusing to lend personal items without hesitation.
    Personal Space BoundariesEstablishing a need for personal space and privacy.Communicating the need for alone time when required.
    Digital BoundariesEstablishing limits on communication through technology.Turning off notifications during focused work periods.
    Communication BoundariesExpressing thoughts and feelings assertively and respectfully.Clearly stating feelings without blaming others.
    Sexual BoundariesDefining personal comfort levels in intimate situations.Communicating and respecting each other’s boundaries in a relationship.

    When faced with individuals who do not respect your boundaries, it is critical to assertively communicate and reinforce those limits. Start by calmly expressing your feelings and the importance of the boundaries you’ve set with specific parameters. Clearly articulate the specific behavior that is causing discomfort and the impact it has on you. It may be helpful to use “I” statements to convey your emotions without sounding accusatory (ex, I feel unheard when you interrupt me).

    If others continue to disregard your boundaries, consider reevaluating the relationship and establishing consequences for continued violations. This might involve creating physical distance, reducing the level of emotional disclosure, or, in extreme cases, reevaluating the nature of the relationship altogether. If you time need away from certain people it is ok, and it does not have to be forever, but that will now be your decision to reintroduce people back into your life.

    Prioritize your well-being and surround yourself with individuals who respect your boundaries, as healthy relationships are built on mutual understanding and consideration. Seeking support from friends, family, or a counselor can also provide guidance and validation during such challenging situations.

    Remember, these boundaries are not rigid and can be adjusted based on personal preferences, cultural factors, and the nature of relationships. Healthy boundaries contribute to positive relationships, self-respect, and overall well-being.

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    Borderline Personality Disorder is a complex mental health condition that requires a multifaceted approach to treatment and support. By understanding the disorder’s intricacies and implementing evidence-based strategies, individuals with BPD can work towards a more fulfilling and stable life. It is crucial for society to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health conditions like BPD and promote empathy, understanding, and access to effective treatment options.

    Registered Nurse | Website | + posts

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