Health

Borderline Personality Disorder: Causes, Signs, Treatment

Evidence Based Article 📄
This article has been based on relevant and up-to-date scientific studies. Our writers are unbiased and objective and present the facts as they are known. Numbers in brackets within the article refer to sources included in the reference list at the end of the article.

Living with borderline personality disorder (BPD) is like being in the jaws of death. One moment, you feel like you’re the happiest person in the world who has a great family, a favorite job, and overall an awesome life.

The next moment, you feel like your world is going to ruin in a matter of a few seconds and you won’t survive. When you suffer from BPD everything – from your mood, thinking, and emotions to relationships and behaviors – is totally unpredictable and unstable.

Most of the time, you feel defensive and scared, without realizing what you should do next and how to find that balance in life. Borderline personality disorder is often ignored and that’s why so many people diagnosed with this disorder have trouble treating it. Today, we’re going to explore the causes and symptoms of BPD and how to treat it and start living a life full of joy again.

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What’s BPD?

BPD, or borderline personality disorder, is a serious mental illness that usually develops during early adulthood or adolescence. BPD is characterized by impulsive behavior, emotional instability, unstable relationships, and distorted self-image. The National Institute of Mental Health reported that around 1.6 percent of people in the United States suffer from borderline personality disorder.

People with BPD lose the sense of who they are and they feel like they are on a rollercoaster with their feelings, emotions, and relationships with others. Their emotions, moods, goals, self-image, and feelings change multiple times a day in ways that feel unclear and confusing.

Those with BPD are highly sensitive and their sensitivity often creates turmoil in their heads. Even the tiniest things or events can lead to unpredictably intense emotions and reactions. When upset or angry, they have difficulty calming down. This results in behaviors that cause a lot of troubles in their lives.

People with BPD often have a hard time staying grounded and thinking straight. They may act out in inappropriate or dangerous ways or say the things that make them feel ashamed and guilty when they calm down. It doesn’t mean that these people are rude or dangerous, though. They need help and support as it’s possible to overcome and treat this disorder.

What are the major causes of BPD?

Scientists have been trying to find out the causes of borderline personality disorder for years and more research is required to find the exact triggers. However, they have suggested that genetics, environmental factors, and abnormalities in serotonin production can trigger the disorder. Here’s why:

  • Serotonin abnormalities: The reduced levels of serotonin in the body have been linked to a variety of mental disorders, including depression and borderline personality disorder. Serotonin is a vital hormone that aids in managing moods, sleep, memory, digestion, social behaviors, and sexual function and desire.
  • Environmental factors: People who grow up in a neglectful, abusive, or unstable environment have a high risk factor for BPD.
  • Genetics: While it’s rare, borderline personality disorder may develop due to genetics. A research on BPD and twins done by the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs and published in the Journal of Personality Disorders found that BPD has a strong genetic component.
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There are also a few risk factors that can increase the likelihood of developing BPD. Some of the biggest ones are:

  • being emotionally abused in childhood;
  • growing up in an impulsive environment;
  • feeling emotionally vulnerable or unstable in childhood;
  • having a family member with mental disorders, including borderline personality disorder.

What are the signs of BPD?

Some of the signs of this disorder resemble the symptoms of other mental disorders, which is why it’s critical that a doctor sets the correct diagnosis. Here are the most common indicators of BPD to watch out for:

1.Feeling empty inside

We all feel empty inside once in a while, but people with BPD feel it day by day – minute by minute. They feel like there’s a huge hole inside the body and those feelings are chronic. Over time, they start believing that they’re nothing in this world.

Oftentimes, these feelings are so intense that people with BPD turn to drugs or alcohol to ease the pain inside but nothing helps, in fact.

2.Frequent mood swings

If your mood and emotions change every 5 minutes or less, chances are you’re dealing with BPD. You can feel happiness flowing inside your entire body, but this happiness can turn into disappointment, anger, or despair in a matter of a few minutes.

The little everyday things can drive you crazy and one wrong word said by anyone can make your temper flare up. Although these mood swings don’t last long, they’re so intense that you might lose control of them.

3.Suicidal and self-harm behaviors

People with BPD are prone to self-harm and suicidal behaviors. Self-harm behaviors include all the attempts to harm yourself without wanting to die.

Burning and cutting are the two most common forms of the self-harm behaviors. Suicidal behaviors include thoughts about death and suicide, showing suicidal threats or gestures, and trying to end the life.

4.Self-destructive and impulsive behaviors

When you suffer from borderline personality disorder, you begin to develop and show sensation-seeking and self-destructive behaviors, particularly when you’re not in the mood or you feel depressed.

You might impulsively splurge on the things that you actually can’t afford, drive recklessly, binge eat, engage in unsafe sex, shoplift, or become addicted to alcohol or drugs. These self-destructive and impulsive behaviors usually help to temporarily relieve the symptoms of BPD, but they can negatively affect people around you and hurt yourself.

5.Unstable and confused self-image

People with BPD feel great about themselves one moment and hate themselves the next one. When left untreated, they start viewing themselves as evil and enemy. They have no idea of who they are.

They have no idea what they truly want in life. That’s why they often change friends, jobs, goals, partners, priorities, religion, and sexual identity.

6.Short-term relationships

If you have trouble building stable relationships, you’re more likely to suffer from BPD. You might fall in love and start a happy relationship, but you instantly get frustrated and irritated by this relationship.

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Just like with a self-image, you like that person one moment and start hating them the next one. Any relationship you have is either happy or miserable, but nothing in between. Apart from romantic relationships, you have trouble building and maintaining relationships with your family and relatives, friends, coworkers, and strangers.

7.Intense anger

People with BPD struggle with a short temper and an intense and uncontrollable anger. Once they’re angry, they have difficulty to control their words and actions.

They may throw things, yell, cry, or become totally consumed by anger and rage. In most cases, this anger isn’t expressed as they spend tons of time being furious with themselves.

8.The fear of being left abandoned or alone

If you suffer from BPD, you certainly have a fear of loneliness and abandonment. If your spouse comes home 10 minutes later from work or has a business trip, your fear activates and you switch on your fear that leads to unhealthy and even dangerous efforts to keep your spouse close.

Not only do you start fights, cling, beg, and get jealous, but you might even begin to physically prevent your spouse from leaving you. That’s the major reason why other people run away from you.

9.Paranoia

Yes, people with BPD tend to feel spaced out and foggy. They also experience paranoia and feel like they’re outside their own body. If they’re chronically stressed, they absolutely lose touch with reality and exist rather than live.

If you’ve noticed at least 5 signs, it’s a warning indication that you have borderline personality disorder. See a mental health professional as soon as possible to learn the correct diagnosis.

It’s important to start a treatment immediately as there are some serious complications that BPD triggers, including substance abuse, bipolar disorder, eating disorders, anxiety disorders, and a long-term depression.

How to treat BPD?

Depending on the symptoms you’re experiencing, you might need psychotherapy, medication treatment, or in rare cases, hospitalization. In a mild form of the disorder, you can try to treat your symptoms at home, albeit there’s no guarantee that it will work.

Psychotherapy

The primary treatment for BPD, psychotherapy is typically the only treatment patients diagnosed with this disorder require. There are schema-focused therapy, dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

Schema-focused therapy helps to identify and change unhealthy ways of thinking. It teaches you to perceive yourself in a more positive way. The therapy includes a variety of techniques, such as exercises that are focused on changing negative ways of thinking, taming anger, and altering unhealthy behavior patterns.

Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) helps you to learn, acknowledge, and accept your behaviors and beliefs. It teaches you healthy responses to those beliefs and behaviors.

In general, DBT teaches the skills for emotion regulation, mindfulness, interpersonal effectiveness, and distress tolerance. The therapy includes 4 stages, depending on the severity of BPD symptoms.

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Multiple studies have shown that DBT helps to prevent non-suicidal self-injury, suicidal behaviors, fits of anger, treatment dropout, psychiatric hospitalization, depression, and substance use. It also aids in enhancing global and social functioning.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is effective in identifying and altering unhealthy behaviors, beliefs, and wrong perceptions about yourself and the people around you. It helps you to better react and act when you feel anxious, insecure, angry, or even suicidal. Unlike other talking treatments that focus on the problems from the patient’s past, CBT aims to cope with the current issues, boosting happiness and the quality of life.

Medication treatment

Although medication treatment doesn’t help to cure borderline personality disorder, it aims to ease the symptoms of it. A psychotherapy treatment is still required, though. Your doctor may prescribe particular medications, such as antianxiety medications, antipsychotics, and antidepressants. These medications help to relieve anxiety, depression, and aggressive symptoms.

Hospitalization

As the disorder progresses and the symptoms become more severe, you might need a short-term hospitalization to treat BPD. In most cases, patients with BPD are hospitalized for thinking about harming themselves or others, as well as suicidal behaviors and thoughts.

How to ease BPD at home

There are a few things you can do to relieve the symptoms of BPD and improve the quality of life without harsh medications. First of all, you should learn how to calm your emotional storm.

Let yourself feel and experience your emotions and feelings without criticizing and judging yourself. You can do it in 5 simple steps:

  1. Explore your emotions and feelings as if they’re someone else’s.
  2. Think of them as of waves. They come and go, come and go. Visualize it and make it a reality.
  3. Focus on your body and its physical reactions towards your emotions.
  4. Practice a self-talk and ensure yourself that you acknowledge and accept all your emotions and feelings.
  5. Tell yourself that they’re short-term and they will vanish as soon as you dare to say goodbye to them.

Practicing mindfulness and meditation have also been shown to help in relieving the symptoms of BPD. It’s also vital to minimize stress, get enough sleep, work out, eat a well-balanced diet, and avoid taking mood-altering drugs.

Whenever you feel angry or experience paranoia, try the following technique to tame your emotions:

  1. Sit in a comfortable position in a quiet room.
  2. Focus on the surface that you are sitting on. Concentrate on your body parts and the way they function at this moment.
  3. Focus on your breathing. Breathe in slowly, taking deep and slow breaths. Stop for a count of 3-5 and slowly breathe out pausing for a count of 3-5.

Remember, if your symptoms affect the quality of life, it’s important to seek a professional. A lot of people manage to successfully live with BPD until the symptoms get worse and hospitalization becomes the only treatment possible.

References:

https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/borderline-personality-disorder/index.shtml

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11236813

https://www.verywellmind.com/schema-focused-therapy-425463

https://behavioraltech.org/resources/faqs/dialectical-behavior-therapy-dbt/

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/cognitive-behavioural-therapy-cbt/

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