Borderline personality disorder, often shortened to BPD, is a relatively new mood disorder that was first diagnosed in 1980. Those with BPD have difficulty understanding and dealing with their emotions, specifically with regards to how they think and feel about themselves and those around them. BPD affects 1 in 100 people in the UK, with most diagnoses in young women. Despite this many people are still ignorant about BPD and its causes and symptoms.
So What Is Borderline Personality Disorder?
BPD falls under the umbrella of personality disorders. Personality disorders can affect the way a person builds and manages relationships, how they behave, and how they feel. Those with BPD will feel their emotions very intensely, especially with regards to how they feel about themselves; they tend to be emotionally unstable and often act impulsively, usually with negative consequences.
Those with BPD struggle to build stable romantic relationships and are described as having black and white thinking when it comes to their feelings towards their partner. They experience extreme patterns of thinking, slipping between one extreme to the other very quickly with no grey area in between. BPD sufferers have described their relationships as ‘go away/please don’t go’ finding it hard to experience a middle ground.
For example, someone with BPD might adore their partner one minute then be angry with them the next. Their feelings towards themselves can also range suddenly. Their thought patterns are difficult to control and they might experience depression one moment to mania the next.
What Are The Symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder?
BPD could be diagnosed if you experience any of the following symptoms:
- Worry of abandonment or rejection and doing anything to prevent this from happening (including leaving them first)
- Experiencing very intense emotions that can change quickly and can last anywhere from a few hours to days
- Having an unstable self image with the idea of who you are changing quickly and depending on the people around you
- Experiencing unstable relationships that can change quickly and often
- Often feeling hollow or empty inside
- Engaging in impulsive or dangerous behaviour including unsafe sex, drug taking, binge drinking, being reckless with money, self mutilation and cutting
- Frequent, intense episodes of anger that is difficult to control
- Self harm or having suicidal thoughts and ideations
- Paranoia and believing that people are out to get you
Many BPD sufferers are labelled as emotional, overly dramatic, or attention seeking making BPD difficult to diagnose. If you are experiencing five or more of the above symptoms on a regular basis and these are affecting your day to day life then please do reach out to a medical professional.
What Causes BPD?
There is no single cause why someone might suffer from BPD. Most professionals agree you’re more likely to suffer from BPD if you experienced a traumatic event during childhood or grew up around negative environmental factors. There is also some evidence to suggest BPD is genetical and you’re more likely to be diagnosed with BPD if a close family member is also a sufferer.
Traumatic events early in life, such as losing a parent, being neglected by a parent, being a victim of sexual abuse or having an unstable upbringing mean sufferers may develop coping strategies that become damaging over time.
There is also research to suggest that BPD sufferers may have smaller areas, or unusual levels of activity, in certain parts of their brain.
These areas are:
- The Amygdala – this area helps regulate our emotions, in particular our negative emotions
- The Hippocampus – this area helps regulate self control and behaviour
- The Orbital Cortex – this areas helps with plans and decisions
These three areas of our brain develop during our early years as we grow and develop. As these areas affect mood regulation it may be why BPD sufferers struggle to build close relationships.
Whatever the reason, like with any mental illness, it is important to remember that being diagnosed with BPD isn’t a death sentence; you can still live a fulfilling and happy life.
What Treatment Is Available For BPD Sufferers?
The best treatment for BPD is psychotherapy. Psychotherapy is a talking therapy which also includes art, music, drama and dance.
Research suggests that dialectical behavioural therapy (DBT) is a great starting point for those diagnosed with BPD. DBT involves group and individual talking therapy sessions where you can learn to understand and cope with your feelings better. The aim of DBT is to help you understand that it’s ok to feel a certain way but it’s important to make sure you change any negative behaviours or thought patterns that are damaging you or the people around you. DBT promotes the belief that feelings are not black and white; that we can feel a multitude of things at any one given moment and it is important to be open and accepting of this.
What To Do If You Think You May Have Borderline Personality Disorder
Sometimes our own minds can be a scary place. If you think you may have BPD one of the first steps should be to talk to somebody you trust and tell them how you’re feeling.
Make an appointment with your GP; they will be able to talk about your feelings and suggest therapy options to you.
If you are feeling worried about yourself, or somebody around you, and need immediate help call the emergency services.
The mental health charity Mind can also help if you need help. Visit their website to find out more.
The Samaritans also offer 24 hour advice and can be reached at 116 123 or by visiting their website.
Being diagnosed with BPD can be scary and alienating but it’s important to remember that you’re not alone. Being brave enough to ask for help is often the hardest step but there are always people here to help you.