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May is Borderline Personality Disorder Awareness Month
Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is a mental health condition that makes it difficult for a person to regulate their emotions.
The prevalence of the condition in the United States is difficult to measure because of the high incidence of misdiagnosis, but the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) estimates nearly 6 percent of the population may be effected by BPD, suffering from symptoms such as severe mood swings, self-image and behavioral issues.
Since 2008, May has been designated Borderline Personality Awareness Awareness Month in an effort to raise awareness and provide resources for people living with a mental health condition that’s far more common than the general public understands.
BPD is more common in early adulthood and, left untreated, the symptoms can become severe enough that a person will often have difficulty functioning in day-to-day activities.
What are the Symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder?
According to the Mayo Clinic, symptoms of borderline personality disorder can include some of the following:
- Persistent feelings of loneliness, emptiness and an intense fear of abandonment
- Damaging behavioral patterns, such as drug abuse, gambling, binge eating, unsafe sexual encounters and impulsive decisions like quitting a promising job or leaving a stable relationship for no apparent reason
- Temporary losses of reality, due to stress-related paranoia, that may last a few minutes or several hours
- Severe mood swings and shifts in self-image, such as feelings that range from intense happiness to being a terrible person to believing they are nonexistent in the eyes of others
- Unjustified, inappropriate anger and temper tantrums that can lead to physical confrontations
- Suicidal thoughts, tendencies and threats, often due to feelings of rejection or impending separation
It is usually more common for women to be diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder.
However, research suggests that men are likely suffering in equal numbers, but are often misdiagnosed with other mental health conditions, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression.
What Causes Borderline Personality Disorder?
Many people who suffer from this mental health condition very frequently experienced tumultuous, abusive or traumatic events as children.
Genetics can also play a factor, in that people with a family member who had BPD are more likely to develop the disorder themselves.
Studies have shown functional differences in the areas of the brain that regulate impulse control and emotional response. But scientists are unclear about whether those differences in the brain function cause the disorder itself or are a result of BPD, reports the National Institute of Mental Health.
Ultimately, research is inconclusive on the root cause of borderline personality disorder.
It is clear, though, that following factors are likely to increase the risk of developing the condition:
- Brain function
- Cultural factors
- Environmental influences
- Social circumstances
The good news is that advances in evidence-based treatments for BPD have improved patients’ quality of life.
Borderline Personality Disorder Treatment Options
Treatment for borderline personality disorder can include medications to improve some of the most prevalent symptoms.
Counseling and other evidence-based therapies, such as Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), have also shown to be effective, especially when combined with a medication management approach.
The DBT approach teaches patients cognitive tools that can be used to calmly recognize negative situations without feeling overwhelmed. The theory is focuses on learning how to accept feelings without judgment.
It takes time to treat BPD, but patients and their families who make it into treatment are often relieved to find out that they’re not suffering alone. It is often the stigma of poor mental health that keeps people from seeking the help they need and deserve.
During the month of May, take the time to become better educated about this disorder. Volunteering at public awareness events is always welcome, and screening any number of mainstream Hollywood movies about borderline personality disorder can reduce the stigma.
As the general public becomes better educated about borderline personality disorder, successful outcomes will increase. This results in more people being able to help share resources and understand the intense psychological struggle that those with BPD are battling.