According to data from a sample of participants in a national survey on mental disorders, about 1.6 percent of adults in the United States have Borderline Personality Disorder.
Research on the possible causes and risk factors for BPD is still at a very early stage. However, scientists generally agree that genetic and environmental factors are likely to be involved. Borderline Personality Disorder usually begins during adolescence or early adulthood. Some studies suggest that early symptoms of the illness may occur during childhood.
Who Gets BPD?
Borderline personality disorder is relatively common, about 1 in 20 or 25 individuals will live with BPD. Historically, BPD has been thought to be significantly more common in females, however recent research suggests that males may be almost as frequently affected by BPD. Borderline personality disorder is diagnosed in people from each race, ethnicity and economic status.
Signs & Symptoms of BPD
The brain’s functioning, as seen in MRI testing, is often different in people with BPD, suggesting that there is a neurological basis for some of the symptoms associated with BPD. As is the case with other mental disorders, the causes of BPD are complex and not fully agreed upon. Evidence suggests that BPD and post-traumatic stress disorder may be related in some way. Most professionals agree that a history of childhood trauma can be a contributing factor.
fMRI – Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging
Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), researchers viewed how the brains of people with BPD reacted to social and emotional stimuli.
Dr. Koenigsberg found that when people with BPD attempted to control and reduce their reactions to disturbing emotional scenes, the anterior cingulate cortex and intraparetical sulci areas of the brain that are active in healthy people under the same conditions remained inactive in the BPD patients.
“This research shows that BPD patients are not able to use those parts of the brain that healthy people use to help regulate their emotions,” said Dr. Koenigsberg. “
This may explain why their emotional reactions are so extreme. The biological underpinnings of the disordered emotional control systems are central to borderline pathology.
Individuals with Borderline Personality Disorder usually have several of the following symptoms:
- Inappropriate, intense or uncontrollable anger.
- Impulsive behaviors that result in adverse outcomes and psychological distress, such as excessive spending, sexual encounters, substance use, shoplifting, reckless driving or binge eating.
- Recurring suicidal threats or non-suicidal self-injurious behavior, such as cutting or burning one’s self.
- Unstable, intense personal relationships, sometimes alternating between “all good,” idealization, and “all bad,” devaluation.
- Persistent uncertainty about self-image, long-term goals, friendships and values.
- Chronic boredom or feelings of emptiness.
- Frantic efforts to avoid abandonment.
- Marked mood swings with periods of intense depressed mood, irritability and/or anxiety lasting a few hours to a few days (but not in the context of a full-blown episode of major depressive disorder or bipolar disorder).
Additional behavior common among those diagnosed with borderline personality disorder includes substance or alcohol abuse. Impulsive behavior may also include leaving jobs or relationships, running away and self-injury. People with BPD act impulsively because it gives them immediate relief from their emotional pain.
Treatment for Borderline Personality Disorder
Types of psychotherapy used to treat BPD include Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). CBT can help people with BPD identify and change core beliefs and/or behaviors that underlie inaccurate perceptions of themselves and others and problems interacting with others. CBT may help reduce a range of addiction, mood and anxiety. Co-occurring conditions are common and require attention in the care plan.
The use of psychiatric medications should be discussed at length with one’s psychiatrist as individuals with BPD may be at increased risk of experiencing side effects from their medications due to the large number of medications that many people with this illness are prescribed.
Family & Friends
The support of family and friends is critical in the treatment of BPD, as many people with this illness may isolate themselves from relationships in times of the greatest need. Family and friends can be most helpful in encouraging their loved one to engage in proper treatment for this complicated illness. With the support of family and friends, involvement in ongoing treatment, and efforts to live a healthy lifestyle – regular exercise, a balanced diet and good sleeping habits, most people with borderline personality disorder can expect to experience significant relief from their symptoms.