What Is Borderline Personality Disorder?

February 5

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is an extremely difficult disorder to deal with, both for the person who has it, and, for family and friends. BPD is characterized by severe mood swings that can lead to impulsivity, low self-esteem, unstable relationships, and extreme reactions to stressors, such as psychotic episodes, severe depression, or self-harm. 

People affected with BPD transition from one extreme emotional response to another, and can often exhibit “splitting,” where extreme adoration towards a person or idea is quickly switched to intense loathing. They also often exhibit extreme black and white thinking.

To others this can feel lie a roller coaster. You don’t know what to expect and you feel like you have to walk on eggshells to keep the peace.

Symptoms associated with BPD include:

  • Panicked attempts to evade real or imagined desertion by loved ones
  • Volatile relationships
  • Overly positive, negative, or unstable self-image
  • Impulsivity
  • Self-harm/suicidal threats
  • Episodes of depression, irritability, and/or anxiety
  • Ongoing feelings of boredom or emptiness
  • Inappropriate, overwhelming, and intense expressions of anger followed by severe guilt and shame
  • Dissociative feelings, having an “out of body” experience, and stress related paranoia

There is no definitive cause for BPD. While there is no specified gene, it is often found to be hereditary, i.e. those persons affected by this disorder often have family members who suffer from it as well. Early childhood trauma, particularly sexual abuse, have been linked to BPD. It has also been observed that neurologically, some individuals with the disorder lack functioning or communication in the receptors within the amygdala, the area of the brain in which emotions are processed and expressed.

While there is no cure for BPD, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) is the gold standard for treatment. BPD is fairly resistant to treatment; therefore, individual and group DBT is often recommended in conjunction with medication. DBT focuses on mindfulness, interpersonal effectiveness, distress tolerance and emotion regulation skills. Although there is no specific medication that is used to treat BPD, certain remedies can be used to suppress symptoms, such as mood stabilizers, antidepressants, and antipsychotics.

In modern media, portrayals of BPD have been criticized as being unrealistic or overdramatic. Nevertheless, certain on-screen depictions of the disorder have given an accurate insight into the life of an individual living with it day to day. The 2003 movie Thirteen has been praised by psychologists for providing a precise representation of someone coping with the realities of BPD.

Following the life of young teenager Tracy, a shy and reserved girl who lives a seemingly normal life, she begins exhibiting characteristics of the disorder when troubles in her home cause her to start lashing out and acting recklessly. Tracy develops a rocky relationship with her mother, and often has negative encounters with her, which plummet her into intense emotional outbursts. She begins hanging out with a group that provides a platform for her impulsivity to place her in dangerous situations, and when her episodes subside, she turns to cutting herself out of guilt and despair.

This film allows the audience to feel empathy for young Tracy as she tries to handle herself amongst an unstable home life and her internal emotional dysregulations, all while battling the trials and tribulations of coming into young adulthood. It is an excellent portrayal of what life is like through the eyes of someone with Borderline Personality Disorder.

Need help for yourself or someone you love? Contact us at drkatrina@kkjpsych.com.

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