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Borderline Personality Disorder Treatment

What is a Borderline Personality Disorder?

Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is one of ten recognized personality disorders in the Diagnostics and Statistics Manual 5th Edition, and one of the most common personality disorders in the world. In the US alone, an estimated 14 million Americans have BPD. It also suffers from an undescriptive name, stemming from an older psychiatric definition.

In modern context, a borderline personality disorder is characterized by inconsistent moods and behavior, constant changes in relationship or social behaviors (i.e., acting incredibly loving, or incredibly jealous, swinging from politeness to rudeness), and an inconsistent emotional profile.

A teen with borderline personality disorder will struggle to emote consistently and will constantly shift and swing from impulsive emotion to impulsive emotion, at an alarming or debilitating rate. This always ends up affecting relationships, often to a severe degree. Teens with borderline personality disorder may have a very hard time holding onto any bonds aside from familial ones.

Borderline personality disorder is a mental health condition that causes a lot of confusion. While it is characterized by wild mood swings, impulsivity, lack of emotional regulation, and problems with self-awareness or identity, it is distinct from conditions with similar, albeit different symptoms, such as bipolar disorder or related personality disorders. A thorough psychological assessment is needed to determine if a teen is struggling with a borderline personality disorder, or any other personality disorder.

Borderline Personality Disorder vs. Other Mental Health Disorders

As a personality disorder, BPD affects a teen’s thoughts, emotions, and behavior. More than just a set of intrusive thoughts or obsessions, BPD can shape the way a person thinks and feels. The important characteristics that set BPD apart from other conditions are:

  • Very frequent mood shifts. Conditions like bipolar disorder are also characterized by mood problems, but these are different in that they involve lasting episodes of depression, mania, or hypomania. Borderline personality disorder can involve wild day-to-day or hour-to-hour changes in emotion and mood. These can be related to other disorders, which can make BPD difficult to identify at first.
  • Viewing things in extremes. BPD helps teens develop a black-and-white view of nearly every situation, which causes them to escalate the most minor confrontation into perceived backstabbing or abandonment. This can result in highly unstable behavior and impulsive recklessness.
  • Going from being amicable towards others to total confrontation. In keeping with the theme of a constant emotional shift, teens with BPD may go from being extremely open and friendly with new friends to kicking them to the curb for no rational reason.
  • An ever-shifting sense of self. Teens with BPD struggle with an unstable self-image, and not just a consistently low-esteem or depressive self-image. They feel uncertain about themselves and look to others to try and define them. This can lead to increased frustration.
  • Jumping headfirst into relationships, and ending them just as quickly, in a constant cycle. For both friendships and romances, teens with BPD are quick to go full speed on romantic gestures and emotions or dump a person unceremoniously out of a fear of rejection or eventual relationship problems.

The condition earned its name because people with BPD are often shifting between emotional states, moods, and different behavioral patterns, thus they are almost always on the “borderline”.

What Does Borderline Personality Disorder Look Like?

While people are quick to point out that teens are generally less emotionally stable than adults, and that they may struggle more often with emotional regulation, symptoms of BPD are much, much more extreme, and result in a pattern of debilitating and dysfunctional behavior that causes teens to struggle to fit in anywhere, whether among peers or in systems such as school.

Young people tend to worry excessively about things adults have already come to terms with or have more experience dealing with, and yes, teens are naturally impulsive, more prone to risk-taking, and less likely to think things through, whether it’s a dangerous night-time activity or a relationship they really should not pursue. But symptoms of borderline personality disorder tend to be a step above that, leading to situations and behaviors that are strange, dangerous, or obnoxious in comparison to their peers.

Borderline personality disorder tends to emerge during adolescence, meaning teens bear the brunt of the condition as it grows. Early diagnosis and treatment can help reduce the impact of a borderline personality disorder in early adulthood, however. Some specific signs and symptoms to watch out for include:

  • A recurring pattern of self-harm, but not necessarily a depressive disorder.
  • Recurring self-destructive behavior and excessive risk-taking.
  • An unstable self-image, one that is always changing in definition and perception.
  • Unstable relationships, even with close family members.
  • A strong fear of abandonment.
  • Uncontrolled anger and bursts of rage.
  • Feelings of derealization, or surreality.
  • Constant feelings of emptiness.
  • Extreme and frequent mood swings, from throwing a fit over the most minor thing to being inordinately polite and sweet.

A specific diagnosis may take time, as borderline personality disorder often overlaps with signs and symptoms of major depressive disorder, certain anxiety disorders, trauma disorders, and other mood disorders.

Causes for BPD vary, as they are usually a list of risk factors rather than a single concrete event. While trauma can develop BPD, it is often genetic – meaning some people are more or less likely to develop the condition and will usually show signs of BPD in early adolescence.

Is Borderline Personality Disorder Treatable in Teens?

Borderline personality disorder is very treatable. One-on-one behavioral therapy can help teens with different symptoms of BPD learn to differentiate between irrational impulses and healthier thought patterns. Thorough cognitive behavioral therapy or dialectical behavior therapy helps teens identify when their thoughts and actions are dysfunctional and apply certain thinking methods and coping skills to ground themselves and employ a more reasonable reaction. It can take time for teens to cope with BPD, as well as patience.

Furthermore, research shows that symptoms can decrease in severity over time, and most patients with borderline personality disorder cope better as they age. Nevertheless, treatment is important – early diagnosis and treatment can help teens develop a much healthier set of social abilities and form important relationships for the rest of their life. Get in touch with us to learn more about how our treatment plans at the Arrow House can help your teen.