Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is a mental health diagnosis that has a core symptom of the inability to effectively manage emotions. The typical manifestation of BPD usually begins during adolescent years or early adulthood. Difficulties with regulating one’s thoughts and emotions, impulsiveness or reckless behaviors, and unstable personal relationships are some of the prominent symptoms of people who are diagnosed with BPD.
Historically, BPD has been often misunderstood and highly stigmatized. In addition, many people diagnosed with BPD often have a co-occurring mental health diagnosis, such as anxiety and depression, making the diagnosis even more difficult. However, an accurate, early diagnosis of BPD is instrumental in the treatment to decrease and manage its symptoms.
Causes of Borderline Personality Disorders
While research for BPD is still in its early stages, many agree genetics and childhood environments play a significant role in the development of BPD. Emotional, physical or sexual abuse experienced as a child may also contribute to the causes of BPD, as well as childhood loss, neglect or bullying. However, people are more likely to develop BPD due to biology and genetics — painful childhood experiences only increase the overall risk.
Top Signs of Borderline Personality Disorder
In addition to a pattern of unstable relationships and a poor self-image, those with BPD usually exhibit at least five or more of these symptoms, as well:
- Fear of abandonment
- Unstable or changing relationships
- Unstable self-image or a struggle with identity
- Impulsive behavior like excess spending habits, unsafe sex, substance abuse, reckless driving or binge eating
- Self-injury habits or suicidal behavior
- Varied, random mood swings
- Constant feelings of sadness or worthlessness
- A difficulty managing anger, like a frequent loss of temper or physical fights
- Stress-related paranoia or loss of contact with reality
Age Range for BDP Diagnoses
Mental health professionals usually hesitate to diagnose anyone under the age of 18 with a personality disorder for several reasons, including the continuous development of the brain and the strong stigma that comes with a personality disorder diagnosis.
In the case of BPD, diagnosis in teens are even more complex because many of the symptoms of BPD, such as an unstable self-image and impulsivity, can be mistaken for common adolescent behaviors — even when they are much more severe than typical teen behavior. Professionals will often note the symptoms as “borderline personality traits” instead of giving a full BPD diagnosis.
In the past few years, there has been some movement in the professional community advocating for earlier diagnoses of BPD in adolescents due to the benefits of early engagement in treatment. A mental health professional experienced in the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness can detect signs of BPD through individual interaction and evaluation of a client. The psychosocial history and information given by family members or loved ones can also be helpful toward providing an accurate diagnosis.
How to Treat Borderline Personality Disorder
Psychotherapy with a mental health counselor is the starting point for treating BPD. The therapeutic process may look different for each client — however, effective therapy is predicated upon a well-developed trust and therapeutic relationship between the client and the therapist. Studies have shown treatment can be highly effective in decreasing suicide attempts and self-harm, as well as increasing functioning and social adjustments.
At Hillside, we utilize the following options for the treatment of BPD:
- Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT): Originally developed to treat BPD, Dialectical Behavior Therapy teaches clients how to increase awareness of and manage their emotions in more effective ways. DBT has been successful in helping clients reduce self-destructive behavior and improve their interpersonal relationships. At Hillside, we offer the adherent and comprehensive DBT treatment protocol, which includes individual DBT therapy, DBT skills training for client and family, skills coaching calls between sessions as needed, and therapist consultation team. DBT is the most studied BPD treatment, as well as the most effective.
- Psychiatric Medication Management: You can’t cure BPD with medicine, but prescriptions can help with other conditions that often co-occur with BPD, like depression, anxiety and impulsiveness. A combination of medication and psychotherapy is more effective in the treatment of mental illness than medication alone.
- Self-Care Activities: By taking part in good practices like regular exercise, good sleep, a nutritious diet and healthy stress management, patients can reduce the instances of mood changes, impulsive behavior and irritation commonly found in BPD.
Choosing the Best Therapist for You
Engaging in psychotherapy with a mental health professional is the first step in treating BPD. However, finding the right therapist is essential for effective treatment. Look for a licensed professional who has specific training and experience in treating clients with BPD. Ask the potential therapist about the treatment approach and ask yourself if the therapist is someone with whom you are willing to develop a trusting and therapeutic working relationship.
Trust Hillside for Your Child’s BPD Treatment
Since 2005, Hillside has been utilizing DBT in the treatment of adolescents who struggle with emotion dysregulation, making Hillside the first residential treatment programs to implement DBT with the adolescent population in the Southeast.
All of Hillside’s clinicians have been intensively trained in Dialectical Behavior Therapy and have experience working with clients who have BPD or Borderline Personality traits. Our treatment team includes the first clinician in Georgia to be certified by the Linehan Board of Certification. We are also proud to be the first residential treatment facility in the state to offer comprehensive, immersive DBT services. We’re excited to offer outpatient DBT services to non-residential treatment clients in Atlanta, as well.
Learn more about our services today by completing our online contact form or calling 404-846-5118 to speak to one of our specialists.