Only officially recognised in 1980, Borderline Personality Disorder or BPD is a lesser known mental illness (certainly I’d never heard of it until a year or so ago). BPD was named as such because it was believed that the condition was on the borderline between neurosis and psychosis although the term has been debated many times as the comparison between BPD and the other two conditions is not strictly accurate.
A person with BPD can have a difficult time managing their emotions, they can feel emotions very intensely for example they can be super happy for a period and then if they get low they can experience very strong self destructive thoughts. This means that they can act very impulsively. They get so caught up in their emotions that logic can sometimes go out of the window. I’m sure we’ve all been there too a small extent with impulsive buying and such. A person with BPD may get that much more frequently than us and their impulsive behaviour maybe a lot less healthy; they may take drugs or binge eat for instance.
Friendships and relationships with someone who has BPD can be testing from time to time. One symptom of BPD is the fear of abandonment so time apart from them or cancelling plans with them can make them very worried. The difficulty with the control of emotion can also mean that a small argument can explode into something huge. These things are just worth bearing in mind of you have a friend with BPD. We all have things that make us doubt ourselves and these things may be your friends.
My good friend Natassa Pericleous, or as I like the call her; Peripoop, who has BPD has very kindly agreed to answer some questions to hopefully ive you a little insight into the condition.
How long have you had BPD?
I was diagnosed when I was 19 but most of the symptoms had begun earlier into my teenage years.
What are the symptoms you suffer?
There are many symptoms but the one that creates the most distress in my life is fear of abandonment. I often do extreme things to avoid that and push people away when I am trying to keep them close. Also suicidal ideation, self harm, impulsive reckless behaviour and black and white thinking are some of the symptoms that affect my life negatively.
What medications are available for BPD? Do you take any? If so have there been any long term side effects?
There are no medications for BPD, but some claim that using anti depressants, anti psychotics and mood stabilizers can help. I’ve tried various medications but I really can’t say that they do actually help with any of the symptoms.
Dialectical Behaviour Therapy is often used in the treatment of BPD. How does it differ from the CBT offered in other branches of mental health?
DBT is more focused on suicidal patients teaching coping mechanisms for those moments. It is also a longer treatment compared to most CBT plans. People with BPD often need help in four major aspects in their lives such as emotion regulation so DBT works just on those.
Have you found that DBT has helped you cope with the symptoms of BPD on a day to day basis?
It is helpful but not a miracle treatment. You just need to find the little bits you have learned that help you as a person and pretty much ignore the rest. Everyone is different.
How do you think the treatment of BPD could be improved?
Since individuals with BPD often have traumatic childhoods a more psychodynamic approach could be beneficial to look into deeper issues that are not so obvious and CBT/DBT can’t identify. My opinion is that working with past trauma could offer relief.
What advice would you give to someone whos friend or relative has BPD? What can they do to help?
Understand that they simply don’t have the skills you have to deal with situations and people. Be there for them as much as you can but don’t try to help if you really don’t know how to as it can make us feel worse.
There we go! Hopefully you’ve learnt something today and hopefully this will help spread a little awareness of BPD. Thanks for reading!