Applied Psychology

What is Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)?

Sep 28, 2021 | By Saranne Durham
What is Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)?

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is a recognized and serious psychological condition. The common features of it are: Unstable moods and emotions as well as risky behaviour. People with BPD respond very well to treatment. As a result, those diagnosed with it can have a productive and happy life should they choose to adhere to their recommended treatment path.

5 Life Areas Borderline Personality Disorder could Impact

  1. Behaviour: BPD can lead to high-risk behaviours ranging from shopping sprees, drug or drinking binges and promiscuity. Often those who have it will engage in self-harm behaviour or be suicidal.
  2. Emotions: Since Emotional instability is a key factor, individuals tend towards rapid mood shifts. Cycles vary in length from minutes to days. Consequently, they feel as if they are on an emotional rollercoaster.
  3. Thinking: Especially when stressed, thinking patterns may change to include more paranoid thoughts or dissociation.
  4. Self-image: Relating to a sense of self is problematic for most.
  5. Relationships: Within relationships there are often issues relating to, for example, trust and perceived potentially abandonment. As a result, relationships are often intensive and strained. Especially romantic ones.

What does Borderline Personality Disorder feel like?

Those with it can identify with several of these statements:

  • I often feel empty.
  • At times I feel like I’m not really in my own body.
  • I feel spaced out or numb.
  • The way I think and feel about my life changes constantly.
  • I’ve engaged in self-harm behaviour.
  • I think about suicide.
  • At times I behave in ways that are impulsive, risky or self-destructive. Such as, binge drinking, drugs, shopping sprees or unsafe sex.
  • I’m constantly fearful of being abandoned.
  • My relationships with others, especially romantic ones, are very intense and unstable.

“Borderline Personality Disorder is typically characterised by mood swings, intense emotions and risky behaviour.”

Where does Borderline Personality Disorder Come From?

Like many mental disorders there is still much to learn about it. Consequently, experts aren’t completely certain what the root cause of BPD is. However, there are three contributing factors that are thought to increase the risk of developing the disorder.

3 Potential Risk Factors:

  1. Family History: Siblings or parents who have the disorder.
  2. Brain structure: Specifically in the areas linked to emotional regulation and impulse control.
  3. Negative Experiences: Trauma, abuse and neglect during formative years.

How to diagnose Borderline Personality Disorder?

One of the challenges with diagnosing BPD is that it has similar symptoms to a number of other disorders. For example: bipolar, narcissistic and histrionic personality disorders. Therefore, only professionals can correctly diagnose it once they rule out other psychological conditions.

10 Symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder

  1. Continuing feelings of emptiness.
  2. Explosive anger.
  3. Paranoid or suspicious thoughts.
  4. Extreme mood swings.
  5. Self-destructive, risky and impulsive behaviour.
  6. Ever Changing self-image.
  7. Unstable relationships.
  8. Fear of abandonment.
  9. Self-harm.
  10. Suicidal behaviour.

How to treat Borderline Personality Disorder?

There is no cure for borderline personality disorder. While BPD was once seen as a disabling disorder, research has proved otherwise. It is very treatable. Those who have it have been known to respond very well to treatments. BPD is therefore a lifelong condition which one needs to manage throughout the course of their life.

Due to its association with risky behaviour, one of the primary aims of treatment is to curb this specific symptom. Thus, treatment incorporates ways to equip someone with skills and coping mechanisms to manage their condition. Thereby, better enabling them to minimise the impact of symptoms. However, this process takes time, perseverance and patience. Working with someone who specialises in the disorder will generally yield the best results.

4 Common Treatment and Care Pathways

  1. Psychotherapy
  2. Medication
  3. Life skills and BPD coping education classes
  4. Crisis interventions e.g.: Hospitalisation / Inpatient services

“Typically, those with BPD who adhere to treatment respond very well.”

One of the first steps on the road to health is to take full responsibility for one’s own health and recovery. Reducing symptoms and their impact in your life is very possible. Thus, staying symptom free is a realistic goal to have. While the possibility of a relapse is always there, the probability decreases by committing to treatment. And creating a support network around oneself.

Living with Borderline Personality Disorder

It is true that, unmanaged, this condition can reach a point where it is debilitating. Thereby, preventing someone from being able to function on a day-to-day basis. However, it doesn’t have to be the case. Many people with BPD have very successful careers, happy stable lives and loving relationships. In fact, when well-managed, unless people are told they are none-the-wiser that someone even has it!

Did You Know?

There are a number of famous people, throughout history and celebrities today, that are known to have had the disorder.

  • Author: Susanna Kaysen
  • Actor: Pete Davidson
  • Comedian: Darrell Hammond
  • Musicians: Georgia Odette Sallybanks and Wren Kelly
  • Sportsmen: Brand Marshall and Ricky Williams
  • Artist: Vincent van Gogh (posthumous)

Choosing a Career to help those with Mental Illnesses

Do you have an interest in helping those with lifelong mental conditions live successful and happily balanced lives? Then consider enrolling in a psychology degree at the South African College of Applied Psychology (SACAP). Enquire here for an appointment to explore your course options.

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