What is Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), and how does it affect the sufferer’s life?
People with BPD share a number of key characteristics, including:
- an abnormally high sensitivity to rejection and thoughts and fears of possible abandonment, which interfere with daily living;
- continually seeking reassurance, even for small things;
- expressing inappropriate anger towards others, whom they consider responsible for how they feel;
- a fragile sense of self and one’s place in the world.
Due to their feelings of insecurity, people with BPD can suffer from:
- Intense or uncontrollable emotional outbursts;
- Unstable interpersonal relationships;
- Unstable self-esteem;
- Self-harming behaviours;
- Depression, anxiety, anger management problems and substance abuse.
Causes of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)
Borderline Personality Disorder is found among 2-5% of the general population. Research has identified that it can emerge as a result of a combination of genetic and environmental factors.
It seems that genetics play a major role in the emergence of BPD, with the heritability factor around 40%.
However environmental factors also play a part, in particular:
- A lack of secure emotional attachment to the primary caregiver in childhood;
- A history of child abuse, especially child sexual abuse;
- A lack of protection during the vulnerable childhood years.
Due to these experiences, people with BPD did not have opportunity to experience and learn how to build and maintain healthy relationships with other people. As a result, they have developed maladaptive behavioural patterns.
Help for Borderline Personality Disorder
The good news is that it *is* possible for people with BPD to change and improve the quality of their lives. However, change often requires a long-term commitment to therapy.
What maintains Borderline Personality Disorder is the existing neural memory network in the brain, which drives thoughts, feelings, and behaviour. It takes time to change this neural network, as it has been strengthened and reinforced throughout the sufferer’s life, every time they repeat the same patterns of thinking, feeling and behaviour.
In order to make changes, the person with BPD is required to learn new ways of thinking, behaving and feeling. Most importantly, they need to learn to feel safe with other people and build positive experiences with healthy relationships, to counteract against their old habits.
Consequently, treatment for BPD with a psychologist or other mental health professional, will likely include:
- Developing assertive communication skills;
- Learning more positive ways of thinking about life, relationships and the world in general;
- Gaining skills to better manage anxiety, stress and anger;
- Learning and practising mindfulness techniques;
- A focus on developing a better lifestyle (eg improving diet, exercise, sleep and socialisation patterns).
There is no magic wand to “fix” Borderline Personality Disorder; the process of intervention can be lengthy.
However, research studies show that support from experienced mental health professionals can assist people with BPD to develop coping strategies, and create a better quality of life with a reduction in stress, anxiety and mood problems.
Author: Yu Takizawa, B Sc (Hons), M Couns, M App Psych.
Yu Takizawa is a Brisbane psychologist, fluent in both English and Japanese. He is particularly interested in offering counselling and psychotherapy services to people who are facing challenges, such as anxiety, mood and personality disorders.
To make an appointment try Online Booking. Alternatively, you can call Vision Psychology Brisbane on (07) 3088 5422.