Borderline Personality Disorder

Intense love. Inappropriate rage. Intense hatred. Many of us experience these feelings from time to time. Now, imagine what it feels like to have all these concentrated emotions in a given day. This emotional roller coaster is characteristic of someone who is diagnosed with borderline personality disorder.

Individuals with borderline personality disorder experience strong emotions that flare up and diminish quite rapidly, often within hours. Since they don’t always understand the source of their feelings, they get little or no sympathy from the people around them. Many times, individuals with borderline personality disorder say that they “wear a mask” as they go through their daily lives.

If you experience frequent mood swings that last for only a few hours or days, feel a profound sense of emptiness, and fear abandonment by those you love, you might be experiencing the symptoms of borderline personality disorder.

Mood swings, instability of relationships, difficulties with long-term planning and impulse control and problems with self identity are common in individuals with this diagnosis. One of the key symptoms is an obsessive fear of abandonment—desperately wanting close relationships while simultaneously pushing people away with impulsive, irrational behavior.

Women have a higher incidence of borderline personality disorder than men and often require hospitalization because of the severity of their symptoms. Individuals diagnosed with borderline personality disorder have an elevated incidence of harming themselves through self mutilation (i.e. cutting, burning) and suicidal gestures. However, the suicidal gestures are not always carried out in an effort to kill themselves, rather to cause self-injury.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, about 2 percent of adults are diagnosed with borderline personality disorder and account for about 20 percent of psychiatric hospitalizations. Because of the extreme mood swings and impulsive behaviors, borderline personality disorder is a serious illness that needs long-term intervention. These individuals experience chronic feelings of emptiness and between 8%-10% of individuals successfully commit suicide.

Individuals who are diagnosed with borderline personality disorder have symptoms that can be identified with the mnemonic PRAISE:

Paranoid ideas
Relationship instability
Abandonment fears, angry outbursts, affective instability
Identity disturbance, impulsive behavior
Suicidal behavior

Because of the severe ups and downs in emotions and impulsive behaviors, individuals with borderline personality disorder may say things like “I feel like I’m losing my mind” or

“I’m so misunderstood.” People diagnosed with borderline personality disorder are often perceived as emotionally unstable from those who know them and have difficulties maintaining jobs, completing their education, or experiencing fulfilling relationships.

Below is a list of some of the common signs and symptoms of borderline personality disorder:

Obsessive abandonment issues
Feeling misunderstood
Suicidal gestures
Physical altercations
Suicidal threats
Emotionally overly reactive
Self-mutilating behaviors
Impulsive behavior
Affective instability
Impulsive, unprotected sex
Broken marriages

Chronic feelings of emptiness
Inappropriate angry outbursts
Difficulty controlling emotions
Loss of reality
Binge eating
Impulsive spending
Low self esteem
Reckless driving
Repeated job losses

(Because these symptoms in and of themselves do not always indicate the presence of borderline personality disorder, please contact your physician or mental health treatment provider in order to obtain an accurate diagnosis.)

Fortunately, borderline personality disorder can be successfully treated and in fact, recent research shows that the prognosis over time is much better than previously assumed but treatment must be long term within a consistent, empathetic but firm therapeutic frame. Patients diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, benefit best from a combination of the following treatments:

Behavioral Therapy to change unproductive behaviors and learn appropriate coping skills

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy to help with mood dysregulation and to acquire mindfulness, acceptance and interpersonal skills in a validating environment. Read More

Metallization Therapy to help individuals develop a sense of how others process thoughts, feelings and frustrations of daily life.

Cognitive Therapy to change unproductive thinking patterns by sorting out unrealistic thoughts

Family Therapy to help family members who are affected by their loved one’s behaviors

Relaxation Techniques to relieve stress and to diminish the physical symptoms of anxiety

Group Therapy to gain new insight from others who have had similar experiences

Medications to address prominent symptoms like mood instability, depression or cognitive distortions

If you suspect that you or a loved one may be experiencing symptoms of borderline personality disorder, please contact a professional mental health professional for appropriate diagnosis and treatment.

Behavior therapy and skills training at The Meehl House are combined with strategies for protecting, strengthening and caring for the body and providing resources to helping a resident cultivate a stronger sense of the value of spiritual strength.The Borderline Personality Disorder Treatment Center Colorado also provides an atmosphere of continuous support from fellow residents, family visitors and the founders of The Meehl Foundation, Mark and Debra Meehl, DD, MSW, who live at The Meehl House.