How to Spot the Signs of Borderline Personality Disorder

By Kevin P. Caputo, M.D.

Borderline Personality Disorder (DBP) is a mental health disorder that affects the way someone feels about themselves and the people in their lives. A person suffering from the disorder is subject to extreme emotions, intense explosions, unstable relationships and a distorted self-image. While people around them may view these behaviors and reactions as disproportionate and inappropriate for a given situation, they feel quite normal and justified to the person with a borderline personality disorder.

Although borderline disorder is not as much talked about as depression or anxiety, it's pretty common. As many as 4 million Americans have been diagnosed with the disorder, and 75 percent of those diagnosed are women. In addition to this, the number of people with the disease may be higher because patients are often misdiagnosed with other mental health issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder or a major depressive disorder.

Appropriate diagnosis and treatment are essential because borderline disorder can be very dangerous when it is not treated. About 70 percent of people diagnosed with the disorder will make at least one suicide attempt in their life and 10 percent will complete the attempt, which is 50 times higher than the suicide rate in the general population.

What are the signs and symptoms of borderline disorder?

Many people will experience one of the following symptoms from time to time. However, a person with BPD will experience many of these symptoms regularly throughout his adult life:

  • A fear of abandonment coupled with extreme measures to avoid being alone or rejected
  • An unstable self-image and a distorted sense of self
  • Unstable relationships with family and friends that fluctuate between idealization and intense aversion
  • Periods of Paranoid Stress Induced
  • Impulsive and risky behavior related to gambling, reckless driving, unprotected sex, binge feeding and drug abuse or self-sabotage of their own success
  • Wild mood swings lasting a few hours or days
  • Threats or Suicidal Behavior, Often in Response to Abandonment
  • Inappropriate and intense anger
  • Difficulty feeling empathy for others

Who is at risk for BPD?

The causes of BPD are not fully understood, but genetics, environmental and social problems, and potential brain abnormalities increase the risk for some people.

BPD works in families, which means that there may be a genetic predisposition that makes some people more likely to know about BPD than others. In fact, people with a close family member with BPD are up to five times more likely than the general population to have a BPD themselves.

The experience of traumatic life events – such as abandonment or abuse as a child – can also make it more likely to have a BPD. However, it is important to note that not everyone who suffers a trauma will have TPL, and not everyone suffers from trauma.

Some research has shown that changes in the brain can make the development of a borderline disorder more likely, particularly if these changes occur in areas of the brain responsible for impulse control and regulation of the brain. Mood


Treating BPD Disorder Can Be Difficult

The treatment of DBP is complex, but when done properly and consistently, research shows that it helps to reduce symptoms. The gold standard for treatment is currently speech therapy, which aims to help patients develop full awareness of their emotions and to understand how others can think and feel. This type of therapy is evidence-based and is generally a long-term solution to inappropriate behaviors that have been taking place for years.

Drugs are not used to treat borderline disorder directly but can be used to help with other conditions that often occur with borderline disorder, such as anxiety, depression and transient paranoia that accompanies the individual under stress.

If you think you or a loved one may be suffering from BPD, talk to your doctor about your treatment options. If you feel suicidal, call 911 right away.

About the author

Kevin P. Caputo, M.D.

Dr. Caputo believes that a trusting and open relationship is important to facilitate the healing process. He believes that it is important that patients be educated to create the best result.

To make an appointment with Dr. Caputo, call 610-874-5257.


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