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Borderline Personality Disorder Treatment

Borderline personality disorder is an emotional disorder that causes stress and other problems as a result of emotional instability. People who suffer from borderline personality disorder may have distorted images of themselves that cause them to feel worthless or flawed. Additionally, those who suffer from this disorder may be easily angered, impulsive or suffer from frequent mood swings that cause others to push away even in loving relationships that are often desired by the individual suffering from the borderline personality disorder.

Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a serious mental health condition that affects the person suffering as well as those around them. BPD is characterized by impulsivity and instability in mood, self-image, and personal relationships. It is difficult for people with BDP to maintain relationships, and they often suffer from co-occurring disorders.  It is estimated that about 1.6 percent of adults in the United States have BPD.

borderline personalities

Borderline personality disorder makes people impulsive and unstable in their moods, behaviors, and personal relationships.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, it was named as such because severe cases of borderline personality disorder are marked by episodes of psychosis, making experts think that the condition was more of a “borderline” version of other mental health disorders. At this point it is generally agreed that the name is misleading. As of this writing the name has not been changed, but Emotion Dysregulation Disorder has been discussed as an alternative.

Symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder

People with BPD are often bright and intelligent, and can appear warm, friendly and competent, according to Stanford University. While that is true, relationships held by individuals with borderline personality disorder are stormy, intense, and unstable. There are often difficulties maintaining close connections due to marked shifts in feelings and general instability.

Borderline personality is diagnosed by a mental health professional after a comprehensive psychiatric interview. This may include speaking to friends and family, previous clinicians and therapists, and a medical evaluation. There is no one thing that signifies BPD, and instead certain patterns in thinking and behavior lead to a diagnosis. The onset of borderline personality disorder is usually during adolescence and early adulthood.

The following are some symptoms of borderline personality disorder, as reported by the National Alliance on Mental Illness:

  • Marked mood swings with periods of intensely depressed mood, irritability and/or anxiety lasting a few hours to a few days
  • Inappropriate, intense, or uncontrollable anger
  • Impulsive behaviors that result in adverse outcomes and psychological distress (ex: spending sprees, unsafe sex, substance abuse, reckless driving, binge eating)
  • Recurring suicidal threats or non-suicidal self-harming behavior such as cutting or burning oneself
  • Unstable, intense personal relationships sometimes alternating between ‘all good’ and ‘all bad’
  • Persistent uncertainty about self-image or sense of self, long-term goals, friendship and values
  • Chronic boredom, feelings of emptiness
  • Frantic efforts to avoid abandonment, extreme reactions to abandonment whether real or perceived
  • Having paranoid thoughts or severe dissociative symptoms such as feeling cut off from oneself

Self-harm and threats of self harm are very serious borderline personality disorder symptoms. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, as many as 80 percent of people with BPD have suicidal behaviors, and 4 to 9 percent commit suicide. Treatment can help reduce suicidal thoughts and behaviors in people with BPD.

Cause of Borderline Personality Disorder

The exact cause of borderline personality disorder is unknown at this time, and research looking to determine the cause is in its early stages. It is thought, however, that both environmental factors and genetics contribute to the disorder.

No specific gene has been identified as the cause of BPD, but NAMI reports that several genes have been identified that are thought to contribute to the disorder. MRIs show that brain functioning is different for people with BPD, so some of the BPD symptoms likely have a neurological basis. Studies on twins suggest that the disorder is largely inherited.

Social and cultural factors as well as life experiences may also contribute to the development of borderline personality disorder. New York University reports that many people with BPD have experienced childhood neglect, abuse, separation, sexual abuse, violence or brain injury.

Treatment at Borderline Personality Disorder Rehab Centers

Treatment for borderline personality disorder was formerly viewed as very difficult, though now it is better understood and more effective. Most treatment plans include medication along with psychotherapy.


Therapeutic approaches used in BPD rehab centers include individual, group, and family therapy. Cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, and schema-focused therapy are all used as well. According to the New York University Langone Medical Center, the goal of psychotherapy is to help a person understand his or her behavior, improve their ability to tolerate anger, loneliness, and frustration, control impulsive behavior, and to improve social skills.

Group therapy for borderline personality disorder can be particularly helpful as it facilitates interaction and can teach people how to express themselves effectively and how to effectively interact with others. Family therapy, on the other hand, is useful for both the person with BPD and their family members. The challenges of being close with someone with BPD can be very stressful, and it is helpful for family members to talk to a mental health professional, too. In addition, family therapy can help family members learn what they can do to help their loved one cope with their disorder.

The National Institute of Mental Health outlines these borderline personality disorder treatments:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): CBT helps people change the beliefs and behaviors that underlie their inaccurate problems with themselves and others which contribute to their problems interacting with others and their self image. It can help alleviate many of the mood symptoms of BPD and reduce the number of self-harming behaviors.
  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT): DBT focuses on mindfulness, or being aware of and attentive to the current situation. In dialectical behavior therapy people with BPD will learn skills to control their intense emotions, improve their relationships, and reduce self-destructive behaviors. DBT seeks a balance between changing and accepting beliefs and behaviors, while CBT more so focuses on changing behaviors.
  • Schema-focused Therapy: This type of therapy combines CBT with other psychotherapeutic methods that focus on reframing how people view themselves, or schemas. It is based on the idea that people with borderline personality disorder have a dysfunctional self image that may have been brought on by their childhood and that affects how they react to their environment.


At this point in time there is no medication that is specifically intended to treat borderline personality disorder. While that is true, they are still often used in treatment and can be helpful in the alleviation of certain symptoms. They can help reduce symptoms of anxiety, depression, or aggression.

Some medication options include:

  • Antidepressants
  • Mood stabilizers
  • Antipsychotic drugs

According to a NIMH-funded National Comorbitiy Survey Replication about 85 percent of people with BPD also meet the diagnostic criteria for another mental illness. With that in mind, it is sometimes necessary to address the treatment of these disorders, as well. In those cases it is incredibly important that the treatments are integrated and do not conflict.

For more information about borderline personality disorder, or to get treatment for borderline personality disorder, contact a rehab center near you today. Rehab centers employ therapists, doctors and counselors that can help provide proper treatment and care for borderline personality disorder so that people who suffer from this mental condition can live a normal life.

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