What Are the Treatment Options for Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)?
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The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) explains that, per the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual on Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), “personality disorders represent ‘an enduring pattern of inner experience and behavior that deviates markedly from the expectations of the individual’s culture.’” These patterns interfere with an individual’s ability to function normally, often causing significant distress and impairment in their daily life. One of the most widely misunderstood and complex personality disorders is borderline personality disorder (BPD).
Research has estimated the prevalence of BPD to be 1.6% in the general population and nearly 20% in inpatient psychiatric populations. Since many people may be affected by BPD throughout their lives, whether directly or indirectly, it can be helpful to learn about this condition and its challenges with treatment. Likewise, becoming familiar with effective treatment options for BPD can be instrumental in promoting lasting healing and recovery.
What Is Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)?
As the NIMH explains, “Borderline personality disorder is a mental illness that severely impacts a person’s ability to regulate their emotions.” Emotional dysregulation, or a loss of emotional control, can lead to a variety of challenges.
For example, individuals with BPD often experience increased risk-taking and impulsive behaviors, including an increased risk of using alcohol and other drugs. Additionally, those with BPD often struggle to identify a strong sense of self. As a result of these symptoms, individuals with BPD commonly struggle to manage their interpersonal relationships.
Signs and Symptoms
BPD is often misdiagnosed, partly because its symptoms can mimic those of other mental health conditions. Additionally, BPD carries a high level of comorbidity with other mental illnesses. In other words, individuals with BPD experience increased risks of co-occurring conditions such as depression, anxiety, and substance use disorder (SUD).
The NIMH highlights several warning signs and symptoms that may indicate the presence of BPD. Some signs and symptoms include:
- A distorted and/or unstable sense of self
- Extreme and severe mood swings
- Efforts to avoid abandonment — whether real or perceived — such as entering or cutting off relationships abruptly
- Patterns of intense and/or unstable interpersonal relationships
- Increased risk-taking behaviors, including substance abuse, reckless driving, spending sprees, or unsafe sex
- Self-harming behaviors
- Suicidal ideation
- Chronic feelings of emptiness
- Viewing life in extremes, such as all good or all bad
- Feelings of dissociation, such as feelings of unreality
How Is BPD Diagnosed?
BPD must be diagnosed by a licensed mental health professional, such as a psychiatrist or clinical social worker. Typically, an individual will undergo a professional evaluation and interview to gather and document their symptoms, health history, and additional concerns. A medical examination may also be used as a way to rule out other possible conditions or causes of symptoms.
While BPD can affect anyone at any age, it is typically diagnosed in late adolescence or early adulthood. S variety of risk factors can increase an individual’s likelihood of being diagnosed with BPD. Common risk factors include exposure to trauma, family history of BPD, and exposure to unstable or invalidating relationships throughout life.
Treatment Options for BPD
Although the nature of BPD poses some complex challenges for treatment, there are a variety of treatments that are effective for reducing the severity of symptoms. However, for true symptom improvement, individuals with BPD must participate in treatment interventions and services on a long-term basis. Depending on the severity of an individual’s symptoms, they may benefit from inpatient programs or intensive outpatient programs, such as a partial hospitalization program (PHP).
Psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy, is the first-line treatment for BPD. Treatment can take place in one-on-one settings as well as group settings. Typically, most treatment programs use individual and group therapy sessions in tandem to allow individuals to maximize the benefits of peer and professional support. The two most utilized psychotherapy options for BPD are cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT).
CBT helps individuals address the links between their thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. The main goal of CBT is to help clients rewire inaccurate or otherwise problematic beliefs to reduce conflict with themselves and others.
Dialectical Behavior Therapy
DBT combines important elements of CBT with mindfulness. This approach was initially developed specifically for BPD, as it encourages clients to foster acceptance for the things and situations that they cannot change. DBT teaches important emotional regulation skills, improving a client’s emotional state as well as reducing self-destructive behaviors.
Currently, there are no proven medications for treating BPD. However, certain medications may be prescribed to individuals with BPD to treat specific symptoms. For example, antidepressants or mood stabilizers may be used to improve emotional regulation. There are risks involved with using prescription medication, however, as medication affects everyone differently and can pose unique side effects.
It is crucial to work alongside a mental health professional to discover what treatment options will be most effective in treating BPD and its symptoms.
Borderline personality disorder (BPD) interferes with an individual’s emotional state, causing them to experience a disorganized sense of self and have trouble forming and maintaining complex interpersonal relationships. To be diagnosed with BPD, a medical professional will perform an assessment and discuss your personal medical history with you. Treatment options often include a combination of individual and group therapy interventions, as well as prescription medications in some cases. At Alter Behavioral Health, we offer residential behavioral treatment programs and mental health care for anyone seeking refuge from distressing symptoms. We offer a variety of treatment services to ensure that all of our client’s needs are met throughout treatment and recovery. To learn more, call us today at (866) 691-4386.