What is Borderline Personality Disorder?

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is characterised by difficulties in establishing and maintaining healthy relationships, sudden changes in emotions and impulses, and an interrupted sense of self. It is often accompanied by self-harming behaviours, suicidal ideation and mood disorders. With treatment and support, recovery is achievable. 


Signs and Symptoms 

While BPD is characterised by a variety of symptoms, it is important to note that the type, severity and presence of these symptoms varies among individuals. Common symptoms of BPD include: 

  • Cyclic mood changes (where intensity may vary from severe to moderate)
  • Anger that is unusually intense and out of proportion
  • Taking risks or acting impulsively in ways that could be harmful to themselves
  • A pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships characterised by alternating between extremes of idealisation and devaluation
  • Difficulty establishing and/or maintaining healthy relationships 
  • Chronic feelings of emptiness 
  • Frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment 
  • Self-harming behaviours including suicidal behaviours or thoughts 
  • Being unsure about themselves, not really knowing who they are or what to think about themselves


Causes 

The exact causes of BPD are unknown, but may be prompted by some or all of these factors:

  • Genetic: BPD may be inherited, and an immediate or close family member usually also has the condition 
  • Environmental: links sometimes may exist between BPD and traumatic experiences during childhood such as neglect, sexual abuse or bereavement
  • Biological: Neurotransmitter and chemical imbalances in the brain, lower Serotonin levels (a neurotransmitter linked to mood) 

Generally, more women than men are diagnosed with BPD, however BPD can affect people of any gender, age or background. 


When to seek help 

Early detection and treatment has been found to increase the effectiveness of treatment for an individual with BPD. As such it is better to seek help sooner rather than later. Regardless of when treatment is commenced, recovery from BPD is possible.


Treatment and support 

Psychological treatments such as talking therapies are the most effective forms of treatment for BPD. Treatment works by assisting people to move through their fears, traumas and emotional problems, with a focus on breaking dysfunctional patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving. These treatments are conducted by psychologists, psychiatrists or counsellors and are also called talk therapy. 

The use of medication in treatment is only approached if the individual is unaffected by psychological treatment, and is done in conjunction with psychological therapy. 

Provided that treatment is completed in a consistent and successful manner, recovery is definitely possible. Constant communication and regular treatment are key to recovery. While relapse is possible, communication and further treatment leads an individual back towards recovery rather than regression.