Borderline personality disorder (BPD) can interfere with every aspect of an individual’s physical, cognitive, emotional, and social functioning. It is important to understand what makes borderline personality disorder different from other mental illness conditions and understand the warning signs and symptoms that may surface in someone struggling with undiagnosed BPD.
It is essential for those struggling to know that effective treatment options are available, although they must be willing to accept help.
It is common for people to group mood and personality disorders, although these are distinctly their own groups of mental illnesses. Individuals that struggle with either a mood disorder or a personality disorder will experience difficulties with emotional regulation. Although everyone experiences highs and lows now and then, individuals with either condition could experience extreme highs and lows that last for days, weeks, or longer. Mood disorders affect an individual’s everyday emotional state.
Personality disorders are unique in that they affect how a person can relate, react, and form relationships with others. Personality disorders cause a person to experience abnormal patterns of thought, beliefs, and behaviors.
Differences Between Mood and Personality Disorders
The main feature of mood disorders is emotional extremes, whereas the main feature for personality disorders is difficulty interacting with others. Although individuals with personality disorders may experience extreme mood swings, this is not the primary feature.
Signs and Symptoms of BPD
Several signs and symptoms set borderline personality disorder apart from other personality disorders. Alongside extreme mood swings, individuals with BPD tend to view many aspects of their lives in terms of extremes. For example, they may change their opinions or beliefs quickly and become fully invested in something for a certain period of time.
Although the symptoms of BPD will vary depending on the person experiencing it, it can be helpful to understand the general signs of the condition. Signs and symptoms may include:
- Patterns of unstable relationships with self, family, friends, or other loved ones
- Fear of abandonment
- Difficulty with trusting others (associated with fear of abandonment)
- Risk-taking behaviors, such as substance abuse or unsafe sex
- Intense, episodic emotional extremes (such as depressed mood, irritability, or anxiety lasting hours to days)
- Intense emotional issues, such as inappropriately exhibiting anger
- Distorted or unstable sense of self
- Displays of chronic guilt, shame, hopelessness, or emptiness
- Dissociation of self from a distorted sense of reality
- Self-destructive behavior
- Suicidal ideation
What Causes BPD?
A borderline personality disorder does not have one specific cause but results from a combination of factors, including:
- Genetics: BPD is known to “run” in family lines. A person with a family history of borderline personality disorder has increased risks of developing it for themselves.
- Individual chemistry: BPD is a condition that is rooted deeply in the brain, specifically in brain regions that control emotion. If a person has issues with their brain chemistry, such as neuronal communication between different brain regions, they are more likely to develop BPD.
- Personal life experiences: BPD is understood to result from traumatic life events, such as sexual, emotional, or physical abuse. Unresolved trauma is an increased risk for BPD.
Understanding a BPD Diagnosis
If you or your loved one believes they could fit a diagnosis of BPD, it is important to seek evaluation from a mental health professional. No test effectively diagnoses BPD, and no specific sign or symptom may hint toward a diagnosis. In turn, a comprehensive clinical interview is necessary for an accurate diagnosis.
If you or your loved one has been diagnosed with BPD, it is essential to understand what treatment options are available to provide relief from distressing BPD symptoms. Effective treatment must address both borderline and any other co-existing conditions that may be present.
Treatment options for borderline personality disorder include psychotherapy, medications, and community support. The main goal for treatment should prioritize fostering valuable ways to cope with emotional dysregulation, working to achieve a greater balance in emotions overall.
Different Forms of Therapy
The most effective approach for psychotherapy, specific to individuals with BPD, is dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT). Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is similar to DBT, except it does not involve a mindfulness approach like DBT does.
Medications may also be used, recommended, or administered to provide quick relief for distressing symptoms. Although no medication has the ability to treat all symptoms of BPD, some medications work to provide emotional stability, relieve crippling feelings of depression, or promote organized thinking. Talk with your mental health professional today to learn more.