Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a complex mental disorder characterized by a range of symptoms and behaviors. It is estimated that anywhere from 1.6% to 5.9% of the population meet the diagnostic criteria for BPD, with approximately 75% being female. The main symptoms include:
- Frantic efforts to avoid abandonment from others.
- Interpersonal difficulties, which may involve devaluing or idealizing others.
- Difficulties with identity and self-image
- Impulsive behavior (often harmful in nature)
- Thoughts of suicide or self-harm
- Difficulties with understanding and controlling emotions.
- A sense of feeling “empty”.
- Difficulties with drug or alcohol use.
There are many theories that have been put forward explaining the causes of BPD. Some research suggests biological factors as BPD is 5 times more common with first-degree biological relatives of those with the disorder than that of the general population. In addition to biological factors, stressful life events may trigger onset of BPD symptoms in vulnerable individuals. Physical and sexual abuse, neglect, hostile conflict, and early parental loss have also all been shown to be more common in the history of those with BPD than the general population.
In terms of treatment, Dialectic-Behavioural Therapy (DBT) is the most widely utilized, evidence-based the treatment of BPD. DBT is a cognitive-behavioral approach that incorporates cognitive and behavioral strategies to help the individual understand and identify emotional triggers that lead to maladaptive behaviors. DBT teaches skills in mindfulness, emotion regulation, distress tolerance and interpersonal effectiveness. The individual is encouraged to utilize these skills when triggers occur. One of the initial goals of DBT is to reduce self-harm and life threatening behaviors, this is of particular importance as 8-10% of individuals with BPD die by suicide, and self-harm is very common. Other goals are to identify and reduce therapy interfering behaviors, and behaviors that impair the individual’s quality of life.
If you believe that you are struggling with BPD or know someone, family or friend who may be, it is important to know that there are things that be done to help overtime. Research shows that individuals who engage in treatment often demonstrate improvement within the first year. It is encouraged that you research the condition and gain as much understanding into the nature of BPD. Developing an understanding and insight into BPD may take time for the individual, family and friends, however it can lead to the development of more helpful coping techniques that not only help the individual but also carers and the broader community. This can be achieved by linking in with mental health professional or organisation or group support.
By Dylan Russell (Psychologist), Lakeside Psychology, Melbourne, Australia.
Dylan completed his Masters in Clinical Psychology at the Australian Catholic University. Throughout his training Dylan worked with children, adolescents and adults in both the public and private sector. Dylan strives to meet every client with unconditional positive regard and genuineness. He brings a flexible, evidence-based approach to his sessions and collaborates with each individual to ensure they are working towards their personal goals.