What is Borderline Personality Disorder?

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January 5, 2012
You may not be familiar with Borderline Personality Disorder, but it's somewhat common: Two percent of American adults, mostly women, suffer from this condition, which is characterized impulsive actions, unstable moods and chaotic relationships. A person with Borderline Personality Disorder, or BPD, may experience intense bouts of anger, depression, and anxiety that may last only hours, or at most a day. These distortions in thinking and sense of self can lead to frequent changes in long-term goals, career plans, jobs, friendships, gender identity, and values. These may be associated with episodes of impulsive aggression, self-injury, and drug or alcohol abuse. Sometimes people with BPD view themselves as fundamentally bad, or unworthy. They may feel unfairly misunderstood or mistreated, bored, empty, and have little idea who they are. Such symptoms are most acute when people with BPD feel isolated and lacking in social support, and may result in frantic efforts to avoid being alone. Music sensations Britney Spears, Amy Winehouse, and Courtney Love are all thought to be BPD sufferers. Meanwhile, actresses Lindsey Lohan, Angelina Jolie, and Winona Ryder have also been speculated to have the illness. People with BPD exhibit certain impulsive behaviors, such as excessive spending, binge eating and risky sex. These powerful emotions generally wax and wane quickly and often. But, due to their intensity, may result in self-damaging behaviors, such as reckless driving, substance abuse, or unprotected sex. Borderline Personality Disorder sufferers may also engage in self-mutilation by cutting or burning themselves. BPD often occurs together with other psychiatric problems, particularly bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety disorders, substance abuse, and other personality disorders. Additionally, BPD is characterized by an insecure sense of self, which means that people with the disorder frequently change jobs, goals, friendships, and even, in more extreme cases, gender identity. Similarly, BPD sufferers often have turbulent and highly unstable patterns in their interpersonal relationships. While they can develop intense but stormy attachments, their attitudes towards family, friends, and loved ones may suddenly shift from idealization, characterized by great love or admiration to devaluation, which is expressed as intense anger and dislike. Such anger may result in temper tantrums or even physical confrontations. Most people with Borderline Personality Disorder have a real fear of being alone or abandoned. These fears of abandonment seem to be related to difficulties feeling emotionally connected to important persons when they are physically absent leaving the individual with BPD feeling lost and perhaps worthless. This instability in mood, self-image, relationships, and behavior may be the reason that suicide rates among individuals with BPD are as high as 15-percent. This distressing figure has caused a great deal of research into the risk factors and causes of Borderline Personality Disorder. The precise cause of borderline personality disorder, or BPD, is unknown. People with BPD, however are known to be impulsive in areas that have a potential for self-harm, such as drug use, drinking, and other risk-taking behaviors. Studies show that MOST people with BPD report a history of abuse, separation, or neglect as a child. Other research suggests that people with BPD in their families may be more at risk for developing the mental illness. Finally, there are studies that show people with BPD have abnormalities in areas of the brain that control aggression and impulsivity. It's impossible to prevent these causes of Borderline Personality Disorder, but treatment for the condition is constantly evolving. Dialectical behavior therapy, for example, is a type of individual or group therapy that was created specifically to treat BPD. This therapeutic method uses a skill-based approach to teach BPD sufferers how to regulate their emotions and improve their relationships. Occasionally, the addition of an anti-depressant or anti-psychotic medication will also be added to a treatment plan. In extreme cases, a person with BPD may need to spend time in a psychiatric hospital. While Borderline Personality Disorder is distressing, with proper care, sufferers can go on to lead normal, healthy lives. After all, Britney Spears' comeback album, Circus sold a cool 1.5 million copies while Angelina Jolie has taken six children and a non-profit organization under her wing! If you're worried that you or someone you love may have Borderline Personality Disorder, make an appointment to see a mental health professional immediately!
Last Updated:
July 16, 2012