April 12, 2023 By Leah Malone

Living With Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)


Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a mental health condition that impacts an individual’s ability to effectively regulate their emotions. Furthermore, such emotional dysregulation is known to significantly interfere with the individual’s interpersonal relationships. Earlier research on BPD found a higher proportion of women being diagnosed with the condition compared to men. However, current research has determined no significant differences in the prevalence of BPD according to gender. 

Still, because of the complex emotional symptoms that women often experience as a result of hormonal changes, many women may wonder if they would meet the criteria for a BPD diagnosis. Whether someone is currently diagnosed or is considering seeking a professional evaluation, it is important to understand that it is possible to live a happy and fulfilled life with BPD. Fortunately, there are treatment options and recovery resources available to help people better navigate emotional hardships and any potential mental health diagnoses they may have. 

Understanding BPD

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), “Borderline personality disorder is a mental illness that severely impacts a person’s ability to regulate their emotions. This loss of emotional control can increase impulsivity, affect how a person feels about themselves, and negatively impact their relationships with others.” According to Borderline Personality Disorder by Jennifer Chapman, Radia T. Jamil, and Carl Fleisher, research surveys have found that BPD affects about 1.6% of the general population and nearly 20% of those receiving inpatient treatment. 

Similar to other personality disorders, BPD does not have one underlying cause. However, there are specific factors that can increase an individual’s risk of developing BPD in their lifetime. These factors include:

  • Family history: A person is more likely to develop BPD if they have a sibling or parent with the condition. Additionally, their risk of BPD increases if they have relatives who struggle with substance abuse or another mental health disorder.
  • Trauma: Unresolved trauma can also increase an individual’s risk of developing BPD. Exposure to abandonment, neglect, or unhealthy or abusive relationships can also serve as risk factors. 
  • Genetic vulnerabilities: A person may also experience an increased risk of BPD if they have underdeveloped or dysregulated areas in their brain. The most vulnerable brain areas in relation to BPD diagnosis include areas that control impulsive behavior and emotions.

Signs and Symptoms

Those who are pondering the possibility of having BPD must become familiar with the signs and symptoms of this condition. Individuals with BPD experience an unstable sense of self, which impacts how they view themselves and relate to others. Additionally, mood swings are extremely common, as those with BPD tend to view things in all-or-nothing extremes. 

The NIMH lists the following additional signs and symptoms that may indicate the presence of BPD:

  • Patterns of unstable relationships with friends, family, and partners
  • Engaging in impulsive, high-risk, and dangerous behaviors 
  • Self-harming behavior
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Chronic feelings of emptiness
  • Fear of abandonment (with efforts to avoid real or perceived abandonment in relationships)
  • Feelings of dissociation
  • Inappropriate or extreme attempts at anger management
  • Substance abuse

Those who believe they are experiencing several of the following signs mentioned above may benefit from a professional psychiatric evaluation. It is important not to compare symptoms (intensity or duration) to others who may have BPD. According to the NIMH, “The severity, frequency, and duration of symptoms depend on the person and their illness.”

Self-Destruction, Substance Abuse, and Addiction

As mentioned above, increased risk-taking and impulsive behaviors are hallmarks of BPD. A publication by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) explains that “BPD is unique in that it is the only mental disorder diagnosis that includes suicide attempts or self-harming behaviors among its diagnostic criteria.” Therefore, struggling with various forms of self-destructive behaviors – including self-harm and suicidal ideation – may suggest that a person has BPD.

Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for those with BPD to experience co-occurring mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, and substance use disorder (SUD). As research by Deutsches Ärzteblatt International highlights, “About 78% of adults with BPD also develop a substance-related disorder or addiction at some time in their lives.” 

Many individuals with this condition may turn to alcohol and other drugs in an attempt to self-medicate symptoms of dissociation, low self-esteem, complicated interpersonal relationships, and more. However, it is essential to point out that self-medicating practices will only worsen existing symptoms, in addition to triggering possible withdrawal symptoms and other unhealthy brain changes.

Effective Treatment Options for Women With BPD

It is essential to recognize that there are several effective treatment options available to help individuals overcome emotional distress, self-harming behaviors, and challenging interpersonal relationships – regardless of a BPD diagnosis. For those with BPD, the first line of treatment is often talk therapy. More specifically, dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is often effective. In some cases, medicines may be used to reduce problematic symptoms or symptoms of co-occurring conditions. 

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)

DBT is a psychotherapy approach built upon principles of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and mindfulness. According to The Mental Health Clinician, “Traditional DBT is structured into 4 components, including skills training group, individual psychotherapy, telephone consultation, and therapist consultation team. These components work together to teach behavioral skills… [such as] mindfulness, interpersonal effectiveness, emotion regulation, and distress tolerance.” 

In DBT sessions, individuals work with a therapist to reduce self-destructive patterns of thoughts and behaviors through mechanisms of acceptance. DBT is offered both in one-on-one and group therapy formats. 

If you experience recurrent patterns of emotional dysregulation, unstable relationships, and self-destructive behavior, you may benefit from an evaluation for borderline personality disorder (BPD). BPD is a mental health disorder characterized by an unstable sense of self. Oftentimes, BPD co-occurs alongside other destructive behaviors, including substance abuse and addiction. Fortunately, treatment options, such as dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), have proven effective in promoting lasting recovery. Grace Recovery provides transitional living homes and additional recovery resources for women seeking healing from trauma, substance abuse, and other mental health disorders. Additionally, we can connect you with a variety of treatment programs to ensure you have the best opportunities to achieve lasting sobriety and recovery. To learn more, call (737) 237-9663 today.

About Author

Leah Malone

Learning to sit with uncomfortable feelings can be painful and disturbing at times. When Leah was able to see her behavior patterns and decided there was enough pain to be disturbed, she became motivated to make changes and accept the work that needed to be done to heal. She needed direction and had no clue how to heal on her own. Through a connection with God, authentic connection with others, honesty, willingness, and humility, Leah is now in recovery from addiction and trauma.

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