What Does Borderline Personality Disorder Treatment Mean?

Updated July 08, 2020

Medically Reviewed By: Kelly Kampf

Borderline Personality Disorder BPD is a psychological disorder that has a varying degree of symptoms and treatments. While all mental disorders require treatment, many people with personality disorders fail to get adequate therapy because they do not want to admit that something may be wrong with them. They may even fear being ridiculed for seeking professional help. Even though there is a stigma attached to mental disorders, you should never be ashamed of seeking treatment. In fact, people with personality disorders and mood disorders may have interpersonal difficulties. This is noteworthy, because folks who have diagnosed or undiagnosed borderline personality disorder often have problems within their family, as well as seeking and finding a therapist they can trust. Therapy for personality disorders focuses on treating both the symptoms and the potential causation for their mental illness. While borderline personality disorder BPD cannot be cured, treating personality disorders can help the patient live a better-quality life than those who do not seek a treatment plan.

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How Do I Know If I or Someone I Know Has Borderline Personality Disorder?

Borderline personality disorder is a mental illness that is characterized by long patterns of strong emotional reactions, fears of abandonment, and substance abuse. Other symptoms of borderline personality disorder may include:

  • Distorted sense of self
  • Self-harm
  • Feelings of emptiness
  • Depression
  • Intense moods
  • Unnecessary risk-taking

While this is not a complete list of symptoms for borderline personality disorder, these are the more common findings among those who have BPD. Also, keep in mind that another mood disorder may be responsible for these symptoms. A mental health professional can adequately diagnose conditions, including those with a borderline personality disorder, as opposed to a mood disorder, stress disorder, or other mental disorders. While having a mental health disorder can be stressful, therapy focuses on helping the person manage their mental illness.

Treatments for Borderline Personality Disorder

There are several medically acceptable types of psychotherapy to treat borderline personality disorder. As with any personality disorder, intense and long-durational talk therapy and online therapy focuses are a good way to keep symptoms in check. While medications may be used to treat some symptoms, such as depression, there is no singular medication to treat BPD.

Schema-focused Therapy

One of the types of psychotherapy for BPD is schema-focused therapy. In cognitive psychology, a schema is an organized pattern of thought and behavior. This type of talk therapy is best for those who suffer from abandonment issues and people with hypersensitive trigger-reactions to seemingly harmless conversations. Many of these symptoms stem from childhood or adolescence abuse. It is not uncommon for those diagnosed with borderline personality disorder to have a history of trauma or sexual abuse. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is a common comorbidity of borderline personality disorder.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy

Dialectical Behavior Therapy DBT is another acceptable therapy for personality disorders, including borderline personality disorder. Dialectic, a Greek word, means conversation with opposing views. In Behavior Therapy, patients with mood disorders and substance abuse issues, work with a clinician to talk about different situations and come up with appropriate responses and behaviors. For people who have triggers that lead to substantial reactions, DBT provides coping skills to apply to events, thoughts, behaviors, and feelings to avoid explosive or undesired reactions that affect interpersonal relationships. DPT has been found to be an appropriate and successful talk therapy for those with a borderline personality disorder or spectrum mood disorders.

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Transference-focused Psychotherapy

For those with a borderline personality disorder, Transference-focused Psychotherapy is a type of therapy that patients typically attend two times per week. This highly structured treatment plan focuses on distorted perceptions of oneself and others. TFP has been shown to change how patients think about themselves in relationships and works on unreconciled conflicts with others due to mental health issues, including borderline personality disorder.

Mentalization-based Therapy

Another treatment for a borderline personality disorder is mentalization-based therapy MBT. What often stands out is that borderline personality disorder patients often benefit from several forms of therapy at the same time. Mentalization-based therapy has been found to be a positive way of treating borderline personality disorder for several reasons.

MBT brings together aspects of psychodynamic, systematic, cognitive-behavioral, and ecological therapeutic approaches. The goal of using MBT to treat borderline personality disorder is to increase the patient’s mentalization capacity and reduce the likelihood of harmful behaviors to one’s self or others.

Additional goals of mentalization-based therapy include:

  • increased behavioral control
  • more intimate and gratifying relationships
  • increased affect regulation
  • the ability to pursue life goals
  • understanding self-worth

MBT is typically conducted two times per week and consists of both group and individual therapy sessions. Group sessions are essential as they help patients with borderline personality disorder function around others. Patients also learn not to feel personally attacked by others and how to interact in an appropriate and healthy way.

What Causes Borderline Personality Disorder?

While the exact causation of borderline personality disorder is impossible to pinpoint, there are groups of people who are more likely to be diagnosed with mental illness.

Borderline personality disorder usually begins in early adulthood and affects more women than men. In fact, 75 percent of those diagnosed with BPD are women. While some people get better with age, these are usually folks who have sought treatment for the disorder. The number of undiagnosed people with a borderline personality disorder is unknown. However,  there are 16 million Americans diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder.

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Left untreated, interpersonal relations will typically significantly suffer, patients may become clinically depressed, and substance abuse issues may take top priority. Those with a borderline personality disorder do not need to suffer or feel alone. There is treatment available to help those with BPD and other mental health conditions.

BPD is not uncommon in those who were physically, mentally, or sexually abused as children. Those with a family history of borderline personality disorder are at a higher risk of developing the condition. Research has shown that 40 to 71 percent of BPD patients report having been sexually abused. These assaults have been by both related and non-related caregivers.

Patients with borderline personality disorder have been found to have structural and functional changes in their brains. Areas significantly affected are those that control impulses and regulate emotions. Whether the brain changes are the result of BPD, or if BPD caused the changes, are unknown.

Borderline Personality Disorder Does Not Just Impact the General Public

Many celebrities and world-renowned people suffer from a borderline personality disorder. Some include:

  • Britney Spears
  • Angelina Jolie
  • Marilyn Monroe
  • Jeffery Dahmer
  • Adolf Hitler
  • Winona Ryder
  • Princess Diana
  • Anna Nicole Smith

While some of these listed names may surprise you, others perhaps do not.

Princess Diana’s borderline personality disorder was thought to stem from the divorce of her parents at a young age. Jeffery Dahmer was diagnosed prior to his trial for murdering 17 men between 1978 and 1991. However, he was deemed competent enough to stand trial. Numerous psychologists and his psychologists diagnosed Adolf Hitler with BPD after his death. He was also said to have paranoid schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and psychopathy.

Complications of Untreated Borderline Personality Disorder

As with any mental illness, when left untreated, complications can arise. Those who do not get treated for a borderline personality disorder may:

  • Change jobs frequently or lose their job often
  • Drop out of school or fail to finish their educational aspirations
  • Have legal issues or spend time in jail
  • Have conflicted relationships with their children, siblings, and parents
  • Have significant marital stress or have failed marriages
  • Be prone to self-injury and may have frequent hospitalizations
  • Frequently get involved with abusive partners
  • Have risky sexual behavior resulting in an unplanned pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases
  • Be involved in a variety of motor vehicle accidents, fights, or other risky behavior

Those with an untreated borderline personality disorder often have comorbidities that compound their mental health problems. Depression, substance abuse, and eating disorders are common conditions. Additionally, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other personality or mood disorders are also possible. These disorders, including borderline personality disorder, can be treated.

How are Narcissistic Personality Disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder Related?

While narcissistic personality disorder and borderline personality disorder may have similarities in their symptomatology, they are two different disorders. The two conditions may, however, be, in fact, comorbidities of each other. This could make separating the two diagnoses hard to disseminate from one another. Only a mental health professional can make each diagnosis and determine if you have one or both conditions.

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Borderline Personality Disorder is a mental health condition that, if left untreated, can have disastrous results. Personal relationships may suffer, you are prone to alcohol or drug use, and other unhealthy tendencies may occur. The best course of action is to seek the help of a mental health professional and engage in regular counseling sessions. While there is no cure for borderline personality disorder, symptoms can be controlled and, with intensive counseling, your BPD can become easier to manage.


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