Borderline Personality Disorder: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

If you or a loved one is suffering from borderline personality disorder (BPD), it can affect every facet of your life. From unstable thoughts and behaviors to problems within relationships, BPD makes life feel uncontrollable. BPD is a mental health condition that affects the way people think about themselves and others. Whether the condition is inducing self-esteem issues or difficulty managing one’s emotions, BPD makes everyday functioning extremely challenging.


Do you have an extreme fear of abandonment, yet you find yourself pushing your loved ones away? Do your relationships suffer due to your self-image issues or the way you react to others? Or, do your goals, values, and interests change so frequently that you feel confused or angry? If so, you might have borderline personality disorder.


Despite the complexity of this mental health condition, there are effective treatments available for those who are struggling. Let’s take a deeper look at BPD and how it’s treated.


What is Borderline Personality Disorder?

Borderline personality disorder is a mental health condition characterized by a pattern of mood swings, unstable behaviors, and self-image problems. People who suffer from BPD might experience episodes of anxiety, anger, or depression that can last for as little as two hours to several days. Since individuals with this diagnosis tend to be fairly sensitive, small situations might trigger a highly emotional reaction. Then, these individuals tend to have a difficult time calming down from an emotional episode.

Although the exact risk factors and causes are unknown, there are some than may contribute to the development of BPD.

Risk Factors

There are several risk factors that are known to increase the risk of developing borderline personality disorder. For example, environmental factors like substance abuse in the home or childhood neglect can lead to mental illness. In addition, studies have found that BPD and other mental health conditions are inherited from first-generation family members.[1]


While you might be at a higher risk if you’ve endured childhood abuse or have a relative who has BPD, other research has suggested that brain abnormalities and chemical irregularities contribute to BPD.


It’s important to note that just because you have any of these risk factors doesn’t mean you will develop BPD. On the other hand, some people don’t experience any of these risk factors and still develop the condition.


Side Effects and Comorbidities

According to the Mayo Clinic, people are typically diagnosed with this condition in early adulthood.[1] However, BPD is typically worse in younger adults and sometimes gets better with age. Still, it can have serious consequences on one’s life. For example, since BPD affects many areas of a person’s life, leaving this condition untreated can result in:

  • Inability to keep a steady job
  • Problems in school
  • Legal issues
  • Strained relationships
  • Abusive relationships
  • Self-injurious behaviors
  • Impulsive and risky behaviors
  • Suicidal thoughts


Moreover, people with borderline personality disorder are also susceptible to developing additional health disorders, including:

  • Alcohol use disorder
  • Substance use disorder
  • Depression
  • Anxiety or panic disorders
  • Eating disorders
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder


Signs and Symptoms of BPD

While mood swings are a common sign of borderline personality disorder, what makes this mental health condition unique is that in addition to mood, a person’s interests, opinions of other people, and personal values may change rapidly over time. As a result, these people might have trouble keeping friends and experience volatile relationships.[2]


Furthermore, while suffering the inability to self-soothe, people with BPD might say hurtful things to their friends and family that they really don’t mean. Consequently, these individuals experience great amounts of guilt, shame, and even embarrassment on a regular basis – which all contribute to an ever-changing sense of self.


Common signs and symptoms include:

  • Fear of abandonment
  • Cutting off relationships in anticipation of abandonment
  • Unstable relationships (shifting from liking someone to extreme dislike)
  • Unstable self-image
  • Impulsive or dangers behaviors, such as unsafe sex, drug or alcohol abuse, or binge eating
  • Self-injury
  • Suicidal behaviors or making suicidal threats
  • Intense and rapidly changing moods
  • Feelings of emptiness
  • Dissociation from oneself or feelings of unreality
  • Difficulty trusting people
  • Problems controlling anger
  • Periods of high stress or stress-related paranoia


If you believe that you are exhibiting these symptoms or might have BPD, it’s important to speak with your healthcare provider or a mental health professional. He or she will conduct an assessment including an interview about your symptoms, your physical health, and your family’s medical history to help determine your diagnosis and your treatment options. Even though BPD might feel like a devastating cycle that you can’t escape, there are treatments that can put you back in control of your life.


Treatment Options for Borderline Personality Disorder

Although the symptoms of borderline personality disorder seem uncontrollable, treatment for BPD actually has a better long-term prognosis than other mental health conditions like bipolar disorder, depression, and PTSD. The most effective way to treat BPD, and other mental health conditions, is with an individualized approach that considers the needs and beliefs of the patient.


Psychotherapy is one of the most effective treatments for BPD. Whether in an individual or a group setting, therapist-led counseling sessions help teach patients how to identify destructive thought patterns, cope with their anger, frustration, or sadness, and improve their communication skills to improve their relationships with others. These therapies may include dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), and individual mental health counseling. By learning how to control your emotions and get rid of unhealthy behaviors, you can begin improving your relationships and your sense of self.


Medications are usually not used in the treatment of BPD. However, people who experience co-occurring mental health conditions, such as depression or anxiety, might require some form of pharmacotherapy in addition to counseling. Depending on the severity of your symptoms and the recommendation of your doctor, you might participate in either inpatient or outpatient behavioral treatment.


Find The Help You Deserve

Whether you’re looking to get your life back under control or help a friend who is suffering from BPD, asking for help is the first step. For more information about your mental health treatment options, contact us today.




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