We all have different ways of thinking, feeling, and navigating relationships. As humans, we all experience emotions – sometimes good and sometimes bad. All these things make us who we are.
However, some people find it more difficult to regulate and manage emotions, often displaying self-destructive behaviours, making it harder for them to sustain stable relationships. This is known as borderline personality disorder (BPD), a mental health condition that affects how someone thinks about themselves and others.
Borderline personality disorder can be distressing as it significantly impacts everyday life and how people approach relationships. Some people with BPD turn to self-harm or substance abuse as a coping mechanism, often triggering other mental health disorders.
Though specific symptoms vary from person to person, most people with borderline personality disorder struggle with regulating emotions. They often go from being extremely happy to feeling depressed in a matter of hours.
Whilst a debilitating condition, the good news is that many people overcome BPD and live a fulfilling life with appropriate treatment.
Symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder
Though everybody experiences borderline personality differently, there are a few common symptoms. These include:
- Impulsive behaviours – engaging in risky or ‘spur of the moment’ activities like reckless driving or substance abuse.
- Mood swings and intense emotions – feeling extremely happy and elated one moment and depressed the next.
- An unstable self-image – not having a solid grasp of identity.
Other symptoms include:
- Unstable relationships
- Feelings of paranoia
- Fear of rejection or abandonment
- A sense of emptiness and loneliness
- Suicidal thoughts
Those who have borderline personality disorder may not exhibit all of the symptoms noted above. However, most health care professionals will only make a diagnosis if they observe at least five of these nine behaviours or patterns of thinking in a client.
It’s important to note that many people who have borderline personality disorder often experience underlying mental health conditions like bipolar or anxiety disorder. Obtaining a formal diagnosis from a doctor ensures that appropriate treatment is provided, so those with the disorder can understand how to manage their symptoms.
What Causes Borderline Personality Disorder?
Though there’s no set cause. Instead, various factors increase the likelihood of developing borderline personality disorder. Some of the most common risk factors include:
Some research suggests that genetics can play a part in the development of borderline personality disorder. If an individual has a family history of BPD, it’s much more likely that they’ll receive a diagnosis.
Additionally, if a family member has other mental health disorders like bipolar or anxiety, a person’s risk of receiving a BPD diagnosis increases.
Those who experience traumatic events during childhood are likely to develop coping mechanisms that they take with them into adulthood, affecting the way they navigate relationships and regulate their emotions.
These traumatic events can include everything from abuse and neglect to growing up with parents that struggled with substance abuse.
Underlying Mental Health Problems
Those who suffer from pre-existing mental health disorders like anxiety, depression, or bipolar disorder are more likely to receive a BPD diagnosis.
Treating Borderline Personality Disorder
A personality disorder like BPD requires a varied and nuanced approach to treatment. Borderline personality disorder treatment usually involves a combination of talking therapies, family therapy, alternative therapies, and medication.
Since there’s no set cure for BPD, treatment aims to improve symptoms and equip those living with a personality disorder with the tools and resources needed to enhance their mental health.
During treatment, people with borderline personality disorder learn how to regulate their emotions and manage their symptoms. Doing so makes it easier for them to navigate relationships and their day-to-day lives. Mental health care professionals work closely with them to develop a treatment plan, which might involve visiting therapeutic communities or receiving inpatient care.
Below, we share some of the most common treatments for BPD.
Dialectical Behaviour Therapy
Dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT) is a form of talk therapy used to treat borderline personality disorder. During these therapy sessions, many people learn to accept their emotions and understand what they can do to better manage and regulate them.
Those who undergo DBT also learn to develop healthy coping mechanisms that can be used in times of stress.
Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR)
EMDR is a treatment used in cases where borderline personality disorder results from trauma. Combining talking therapy with dual attention stimulus, EMDR sessions see a therapist walk a client through a single traumatic event. During this time, they are asked to think about the event and any emotions that transpire as a result.
From here, clients are then asked to replace any negative thoughts or feelings with positive ones whilst following the movement of the therapist’s hand with their eyes. This dual attention stimulus is thought to help people better process trauma and accept what has happened to them.
Group therapy is a great way to let off steam and share thoughts and feelings with others. Though daunting at times, group therapy provides a safe space for all participants.
Everyone in the room will understand what each person is going through because they’ve gone through the same thing. Group therapy focuses on sharing and acknowledging BPD, triggers, and healing strategies.
Mentalisation-based therapy is another treatment approach that encourages people with BPD to understand and accept other people’s mental states, as well as their own. If this particular treatment is recommended, clients are encouraged to examine their own thoughts and feelings to better understand their disorder and how they react to triggers.
Since many people with BPD struggle with their self-image, mentalisation-based therapy is a treatment approach that focuses on helping them make sense of their feelings, beliefs, and emotions.
Internal Family Systems (IFS)
IFS is a type of therapy founded on the idea that each person has different parts and sub-personalities. The three main types are manager, firefighter, and exile.
IFS aims to help people with BPD acknowledge that they have different energies and ‘sub-personalities’ within them, all of which play a role in their behaviour and how they approach relationships.
If a traumatic event has affected a person’s mental health, these energies will be out of sync. During IFS sessions, clients learn how to balance these energies so they can become the best version of themselves.
Family therapy is especially effective as it gives family members a chance to voice their opinion and understand what their loved one is going through. It’s a safe and non-judgemental space for everyone to speak up and share their thoughts and concerns.
An alternative treatment approach, spiritual counselling involves turning to a higher power to achieve healing and supercharge the recovery journey.
Spiritual counselling may see a client guided through prayer. Likewise, they may learn to slowly build up their faith. The point is that spiritual counselling isn’t tied to one specific religion or denomination.
Though clients can work with Christian or Catholic counsellors, for example, there is also the option to work with a non-denominational counsellor who brings together many different types of spiritualities and teachings.
Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (rTMS)
A non-invasive brain stimulation therapy, TMS is often used to treat other mental health disorders like anxiety and depression. Since TMS works by stimulating nerve cells in the area of the brain responsible for regulating emotions, it can help alleviate symptoms associated with BPD.
An alternative therapy used to treat borderline personality disorder, somatic experiencing involves eliminating trapped trauma from the body. It’s built upon the idea that trauma builds up in the body, leading to increased feelings of anxiety, paranoia, and depression.
Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
Falling under the branch of talking therapies, CBT is used in the treatment of a wide range of mental health conditions and personality disorders, including BPD.
CBT sessions aim to help clients better understand their emotions and feelings, showing them ways to break out of negative patterns and damaging behaviours. Research suggests that CBT can reduce levels of anxiety and suicidal thoughts – symptoms that are often associated with borderline personality disorder.
Ready To Begin Your Recovery Journey?
At Addcounsel, we understand just how difficult it can be to navigate life with borderline personality disorder. People don’t always understand the behaviours displayed, and sometimes those with the disorder struggle with intense emotions. Luckily, recovery is possible. With effective treatment, many people learn to manage BPD and any other mental illness they may have.
The treatment process at Addcounsel involves a wide range of therapies, alternative treatments, and certain medications and mood stabilisers. Every treatment plan is designed to suit the unique needs of everyone who walks through our door so they can recover with the most effective treatment options possible.
Don’t suffer in silence. Contact our care team today to ask any questions you may have and uncover how we can support you.