People who suspect that someone that they love has a mental illness might ask the question, “What is borderline personality disorder?”
Borderline personality disorder is a mental illness in the class of disorders known as personality disorders. Personality disorders are maladaptive patterns of behavior that people often develop during childhood. Personality disorders can affect an afflicted person’s thoughts, emotions and behaviors. People with borderline personality disorder often experience disproportionate emotional responses that cause them to respond to certain stressors in an exaggerated fashion. Specialists such as therapists, counselors and psychiatrists can help people to reverse most personality disorders. Borderline personality disorder is one of the disorders that has a high probability of treatment success. Treatment success increases when a person seeks help early in life.
One of the most prevalent symptoms of borderline personality disorder is extreme emotional fluctuation. An affected person may quickly switch from an elated state to a depressed state. He or she may also switch from happiness to anger. People often confuse borderline personality disorder with bipolar disorder because of the emotional changes. However, the two illnesses are quite different in their causes and a variety of their symptoms.
Low Self-Esteem and Fear of Abandonment
People with borderline personality disorder have low self-esteem and a deteriorated self-image. They have a habit of basing their self-worth on the feelings and actions of other people. Their pattern of interacting with other people is unstable because they have a painful inner need for approval and acceptance. Additionally, they have an overwhelming fear of abandonment. The fear of abandonment sometimes causes them to act out in unusual ways. Persons with borderline personality disorder will stay in a toxic relationship just to avoid the agony of abandonment. They will sometimes make frantic efforts to keep a people in their lives for the sake of feeling some degree of love and adoration. Borderline personality disorder relationships are often versatile or hot and cold.
Extreme Changes in Perception
People who suffer with borderline personality disorder never see shades of gray when it comes to relationships. They usually view people as either good or bad. People in their lives can skew their views if they do not meet their demands or live up to their expectations. Such expectations may be unreasonable or irrational. The cycle of converting ideals from good to bad is called idealization and devaluation. Persons with borderline personality disorder are notorious for going through this cycle on a continual basis.
Persons with borderline personality disorder may engage in impulsive and risky activities because of the instability of their emotions. Such activities may include gambling, drug and alcohol abuse, binge eating, reckless driving, multiple sexual encounters and more. Not all people with borderline personality disorder exhibit the same impulsive behaviors. One person may exhibit one behavior such as drug abuse while another person exhibits a different behavior such as gambling. Some people may exhibit a combination of impulsive behaviors. Additionally, some people may engage in a number of unlisted impulsive actions.
Suicidal Thoughts and Behaviors
Suicidal behaviors and thoughts occur frequently in people with borderline personality disorder. Since such people base their self-worth on outside factors, they frequently become depressed when life’s events do not go their way. The mishandling of emotions comes from their lack of development of coping mechanisms. People with borderline personality disorder often think about committing suicide. Some of them threaten suicide when their partners break up with them. They may threaten suicide during or after an argument, as well. Additionally, people with borderline personality disorder may engage in a self-harm ritual called cutting. They may cut themselves with razor blades and other sharp objects to dull the emotional pain that they feel. They may cut themselves to gain attention from current and former friends, lovers and family members. Alternatively, cutting may be their true attempt at committing suicide.
People with borderline personality may suffer with feelings of emptiness during most of their lives. They usually fill their voids with failed relationships, jobs, and impulsive or addictive activities. They go through life feeling worthless as if they can serve no true purpose to any person or establishment in the world. The borderline individual is an extremely sad and lonely person who craves attention and appreciation at all times.
Inappropriate Angry Responses
People with borderline personality disorder may react to various situations with inappropriate anger. For example, the rejection of a loved one or a desired object of affection can push a borderline personality over the edge. The borderline individual may engage in acts of revenge or vengeance against persons that they once idealized. The angry response comes from their internal need to share their pain with other people.
Paranoia is a common trait of people with borderline personality disorder. Such persons may feel as if everyone in the neighborhood or the workforce is against them. They may feel as if everyone in their environment hates them. The paranoia may cause a series of irrational actions and responses.
Disassociation With People or Situations
During the idealization and devaluation cycles, people with borderline personality disorder may dissociate with people and situations that they once enjoyed. For example, a borderline may completely ignore or forget a person who once meant the world to him or her. The individual may never again enter a building in which he or she had a hurtful experience.
Overall Emotional Instability
The borderline personality individual exhibits overall emotional instability. The person may experience various moods and emotions such as anger, depression, anxiety and paranoia. He or she may have episodes that last from several hours to several days, and then the person will switch to different emotions. The frequency and length of emotional changes is one of the differentiators between borderline personality disorder and bipolar disorder. Bipolar individuals usually have episodes that last at least one week while borderline individuals will switch moods within a few days. Additionally, bipolar emotional changes and mood fluctuations come from brain chemical changes rather than maladaptive coping mechanisms.
Causes of Borderline Personality Disorder
Researchers do not state a definitive cause for borderline personality disorder. Some specialists tend to believe that the disorder has a biological cause such as genetic traits. Other specialists believe that the disorder comes from environmental factors. Environmental factors can be any poor experiences that a person has endured during his or her life such as bullying or ridicule. Many specialists believe that borderline personality disorder comes from different types of childhood abuse.
A narcissistic parent often views his or her child as an object or a tool for manipulation. The child is nothing more than a means for the narcissistic parent to obtain praise and attention. Therefore, the parent goes out of his or her way to spoil the child to an unhealthy extent so that he or she can appear as a caring parent to the rest of the world. The narcissistic parent does not spoil his or her children out of love; the person does it out of a need for narcissistic supply. Children with such parents can develop borderline personality disorder because no one ever teaches them how to respond to challenges. Their parents do not teach them that they cannot have their way all the time, or that rewards come after good behavior. Therefore, the children learn to act out aggressively in the face of adversity.
An abusive narcissistic parent can cause his or her child to develop borderline personality disorder, as well. Such a parent may neglect the child, abandon the child, or deny the child conversation, nurturing, affection and praise. The parent may put the child down repeatedly and make comments that kill the child’s spirit. A child who endures such treatment for long years can develop the disease.
Sexual abuse can cause borderline personality disorder. A child victim of sexual abuse may not understand that the abuser’s actions are not his or her fault. The child may believe that he or she is unholy, dirty or generally bad. The low self-image grows during childhood and develops into an adult sense of self-hatred and contempt.
Borderline Personality Disorder Criteria and Diagnosis
A psychiatrist must diagnose a person who suspects BPD as an illness. The person will have to meet certain criteria to receive a diagnosis for the cluster B personality disorder. The doctor will ask a series of questions that the patient must directly answer. The patient will have to describe symptoms and various events from his or her life. The doctor may ask the patient to take a full survey or psychiatric evaluation, as well. To receive a diagnosis or BPD, a person must meet at least five of the aforementioned symptoms.
Borderline Personality Disorder Treatment
Medical professionals use a number of strategies to treat borderline personality disorder. Therapy-related treatments are the most commonly used treatment methods for personality disorders. Individual therapy involves digging sessions between the therapist and the patient that reveal the root cause of the disorder. Once the two parties discover the root of the problem, then the therapist can help the patient to unlearn the maladaptive behavioral patterns.
Self-esteem and confidence development is the first aspect of recovery that professionals must touch to heal a borderline person. The therapist must teach the patient about positive thinking and self-affirmation. The therapist must teach the patient how to survive alone and be content with the self. Additionally, the therapist must use creative tactics to teach the person how to deal with stressors and disappointments. Retraining one’s thought processes and behaviors is highly possible. The doctor and the patient must both be fully dedicated to the person’s recovery. Full recovery may take a number of years depending the patient’s level of worldly distortion.
Psychiatrists may prescribe medications to alleviate some of the symptoms and discomforts of borderline personality disorder. However, medication management would be a secondary treatment plan. Behavioral therapy would be the main course of treatment in curing BPD. An example of a medication that a doctor may prescribe a person with BPD is an antidepressant. Antidepressants alter chemicals in the brain such as serotonin and dopamine. Such chemicals regulate the degree of happiness that a person feels. The most common types of antidepressants are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors such as Celexa, Lexapro, Prozac, Paxil and Zoloft.
SSRIs may alleviate the symptoms of anxiety that most people with BPD experience. Doctors may also prescribe low dosages of antipsychotics. Examples of antipsychotics include Seroquel, Latuda, Haldol and Abilify. Antipsychotics can calm the thought processes and alleviate paranoia and delusional thinking. Some doctors may try a different approach and describe mild tranquilizers such as Ativan or Xanax. Mild tranquilizers can help people with BPD to sleep if they experience bothersome thoughts because of their condition.
The level of success that a person has beating BPD depends on his or her willingness to get better. Success depends on the ability of the treating physicians, as well. The combination of temporary medications and consistent behavioral therapies can help a person to recover from the painful clutches of borderline personality disorder.