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What is borderline personality disorder and how can it be treated?

Researcher & Writer: Asmi Sarkar

Illustrator: Ellie Liu

Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a mental health condition that impacts the way a person perceives themselves and others, causing difficulty functioning in everyday life. It is characterised by self-image issues, difficulty managing emotions and behaviour, and a pattern of unstable relationships. Individuals with BPD may have an intense fear of abandonment or instability and have difficulty tolerating being alone.

Anger, impulsiveness and frequent mood swings may push others away, even though the person may be looking for long-term meaningful relationships. BPD can be caused by both environmental factors and genetic factors, and usually begins during early adulthood and is often more severe during young adulthood. However, with time, symptoms related to BPD can get better over time.


Many people with BPD overcome their symptoms and recover. However, if symptoms do reappear then additional treatment is also recommended.

BPD is mainly treated using psychotherapy. Psychotherapy involves talking with a mental health professional about strategies to cope with BPD and discuss any important issues. The goals of psychotherapy involve:

  • To help the patient focus on their current ability to function

  • Learn to manage emotions that feel uncomfortable

  • Reduce impulsiveness by helping the patient observe feelings

  • To work on improving relationships

Dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT)

DBT is a specific type of psychotherapy used to treat individuals with BPD. DBT is based on the idea that 2 important factors contribute to BPD:

  • Feeling particularly emotionally vulnerable - for example, low levels of stress make you extremely anxious

  • Growing up in an environment where emotions were dismissed by people around you.


These 2 factors may cause a negative impact, intense and upsetting emotions are experienced, yet feelings of guilt arise for having these emotions. These thoughts can lead to further upsetting emotions. Additionally, the DBT therapist will try to bring about positive changes in the patient's life. DBT also involves individual and group sessions. The group sessions are based on teamwork, and allows the patients to work with the therapists and other people involved in the group sessions.

Mentalisation-Based Therapy (MBT)

Another type of psychotherapy that can be used to treat BPD is mentalisation-based therapy (MBT).


Mentalisation is the ability to think about thinking. This involves examining your own thoughts, beliefs, and assessing their significance. The goal of MBT is to have a better ability to mentalize and to think before reacting to situations and people. MBT also helps the patient understand the potential impact their actions may have on others.


Bibliography

Borderline personality disorder - Symptoms and causes. (2022, December 13). Mayo Clinic. Retrieved February 23, 2023, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/borderline-personality-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20370237


Borderline personality disorder - Diagnosis and treatment - Mayo Clinic. (2022, December 13). Retrieved February 24, 2023, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/borderline-personality-disorder/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20370242


NHS website. (2023, February 15). Treatment - Borderline personality disorder. nhs.uk. Retrieved February 24, 2023, from https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/conditions/borderline-personality-disorder/treatment/




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