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What is Borderline Personality Disorder?

Updated: Dec 18, 2018

In this article, I will go through what exactly Borderline Personality Disorder is, or BPD as it is more commonly known. The fact that there is hope and treatment available is something crucial to a person suffering from this personality disorder.

Borderline Personality Disorder is one of the most misunderstood and heavily stigmatised Mental Health issues. In fact some Psychiatrists and professionals refuse to treat patients with the illness as they often present as a high suicide risk. Historically the illness itself has often been associated with manipulative behaviours and outbursts of emotion and sometimes anger and violence.

It is crucial to note that not everyone diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder all share the exact same traits, which is what makes it such a complex illness and unfortunately is often misdiagnosed, leaving the patient either not having any treatment at all, or being treated for the wrong illness. As BPD often co-exists with Depression, Anxiety and significant mood swings, the treatment options are extremely complex.

Why is is called "Borderline"? - The name of this illness includes the unusual word ‘borderline’ for historical reasons.

In the past, mental illnesses were categorised as ‘psychoses’ or ‘neuroses’. When psychiatrists first wrote about BPD, it didn’t fit into either category. They decided it belonged on an imaginary line between these two groups of illnesses.

I have included a list of some of the symptoms and presentation of someone suffering from Borderline Personality Disorder. It is important to note that this is a bit of a sliding scale, some traits are far more prevalent than others.

1. Being prone to fear that other people might leave them. This can cause them to make frantic efforts to avoid being abandoned by other people – including in situations where other people wouldn’t feel let down or wouldn’t take it personally.

2. Having relationships that are unusually intense and unstable (e.g. idealising another person, then intensely disliking them).

3. Being very unsure about themselves – not really knowing who they are or what to think about themselves.

4.Taking risks or acting impulsively in ways that could be harmful (e.g. not thinking before spending money, risky sexual behaviour, risky drug or alcohol use, driving recklessly or binge-eating).

5. Repeatedly harming themselves, showing suicidal behaviour, or talking and thinking about committing suicide.

6. Experiencing short-lived but intense emotional ‘lows’ or times of irritability or anxiety. This is usually only for a few hours at a time but sometimes this can last longer, up to weeks.

7. Experiencing a persistent feeling of being ‘empty’ inside.

8. Experiencing anger that is unusually intense, and out of proportion to whatever triggered the anger, and being unable to control it (e.g. having fits of temper or getting into fights).

9. When stressed, becoming highly suspicious of others or experiencing unusual feelings of being detached from their own emotions, body or surroundings.

10. Frequently accompanied by depression, anxiety and substance abuse.

In order to be properly diagnosed a patient must meet the criteria set out in the DSM -5 (Diagnostic and Statistic Manual of Mental Disorders).

What causes borderline personality disorder?

The exact causes of BPD are not yet known. It is probably caused by genes as well as experiences – not just one or the other.

For a person who is naturally very sensitive, life problems while growing up might be especially damaging. These problems could include bad experiences or having another mental health condition. Traumatic events also contribute greatly to the development of BPD.

It is not possible to predict who will develop Borderline Personality Disorder.

There are treatment options available to BPD sufferers, the most effective being Dialectical Behavioural Therapy, or DBT. This is a specialised form of treatment that involves skills based techniques to effectively manage the symptoms of BPD. There are no current medications to treat the illness, however for me, it co-exists with Major Depressive Disorder and Generalised Anxiety Disorder.

In future posts I will talk more about the effect that BPD has had on my life and also my journey through recovery. I will also provide information for anyone who thinks they may be suffering with the conditions and what services are available in Australia for treatment.

Another extremely important conversation to be had is the effect that this illness has on the people around you. In fact this can be both a lifesaver and a curse as unfortunately many people "give up" on the person, which in turn triggers an enormous response to rejection.

If you or someone you love needs immediate help please see your GP, or call Lifeline in Australia on 13 11 14.

There is hope for a better future and a healthy life, we just have to have the right conversations and the right education for professionals, patients and loved ones.

Borderline Personality Disorder
Introduction to Borderline Personality Disorder

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