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Borderline Personality Disorder

Many of us experience intense love, inappropriate rage or intense hatred  from time to time. Having all of these concentrated emotions daily is the emotional roller coaster that is  characteristic of someone who is diagnosed with borderline personality disorder.

Individuals with borderline personality disorder experience strong emotions that flare up and diminish quite rapidly, often within hours. With few understanding the source of their feelings, those suffering from borderline personality disorder garner little sympathy from others. They often feel as though they wear a mask as they go through their daily lives.

Borderline personality disorder is often characterized by frequent mood swings, a profound sense of emptiness, instability in relationships, difficulties with long-term planning, impulse control, and problems self-identity. One of the key symptoms is an obsessive fear of abandonment—desperately wanting close relationships while simultaneously pushing people away with impulsive, irrational behavior.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, about 1.6 percent of U.S. adults are diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, but it could be as high as 5.9 percent. Nearly 75 percent of those diagnosed with borderline personality disorder are women and often require hospitalization because of the severity of their symptoms. Individuals diagnosed with borderline personality disorder have an elevated incidence of harming themselves through self-mutilation (i.e. cutting, burning) and suicidal gestures. However, the suicidal gestures are not always carried out to kill themselves, rather to cause self-injury.

Individuals who are diagnosed with borderline personality disorder have symptoms that can be identified with the mnemonic PRAISE:

Paranoid ideas
Relationship instability
Abandonment fears, angry outbursts, affective instability
Identity disturbance, impulsive behavior
Suicidal behavior

Because of the severe instability of emotions and impulsive behaviors, individuals with borderline personality disorder tend to say, “I feel like I’m losing my mind” or “I’m so misunderstood.” Often, they are perceived as emotionally unstable from those who know them and have difficulties maintaining jobs, completing their education, or experiencing fulfilling relationships. Below is a list of some of the common signs and symptoms of borderline personality disorder:

  • Obsessive abandonment issues
  • Feeling misunderstood
  • Suicidal gestures
  • Physical altercations
  • Suicidal threats
  • Emotionally overly reactive
  • Self-mutilating behaviors
  • Impulsive behavior
  • Affective instability
  • Impulsive, unprotected sex
  • Broken marriages
  • Chronic feelings of emptiness
  • Depression
  • Inappropriate angry outbursts
  • Difficulty controlling emotions
  • Paranoia
  • Loss of reality
  • Binge eating
  • Impulsive spending
  • Low self esteem
  • Reckless driving
  • Repeated job losses

(Because these symptoms in and of themselves do not always indicate the presence of borderline personality disorder, please contact your physician or mental health treatment provider in order to obtain an accurate diagnosis.)

Fortunately, borderline personality disorder can be treated successfully and in fact, recent research shows that the prognosis over time is much better than previously assumed but treatment must be long term within a consistent, empathetic but firm therapeutic frame.

Patients diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, benefit best from a combination of the following treatments:

  • Behavioral Therapy to change unproductive behaviors and learn proper coping skills
  • Dialectical Behavioral Therapy to help with mood dysregulation and to acquire mindfulness, acceptance, and interpersonal skills in a validating environment. Read More
  • Metallization Therapy to help individuals develop a sense of how others process thoughts, feelings, and frustrations of daily life.
  • Cognitive Therapy to change unproductive thinking patterns by sorting out unrealistic thoughts
  • Family Therapy to help family members affected by their loved one’s behaviors
  • Relaxation Techniques to relieve stress and to diminish the physical symptoms of anxiety
  • Group Therapy to gain new insight from others who have had similar experiences
  • Medications to address prominent symptoms like mood instability, depression or cognitive distortions

If you suspect that you or a loved one may be experiencing symptoms of borderline personality disorder, please contact a professional mental health professional for proper diagnosis and treatment.