Bringing Awareness to Borderline Personality Disorder

May is National Borderline Personality Disorder Awareness month which seeks to stop stigma by spreading awareness, providing support, and sharing information on effective treatments.

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is among the most misunderstood and stigmatized of all mental health conditions. A pervasive disorder of the emotion regulation system, BPD often co-occurs with other mental conditions such as anxiety, depression, substance use disorders and disordered eating. Genetics, neurobiological changes and trauma or pervasive stress in the environment are thought to cause BPD. BPD effects approximately 1.5% of the adult population in the US.

Borderline Personality Disorder Symptoms in Adults

BPD symptoms can present in many ways, often making it difficult to diagnosis. These can include,

  • Emotional instability and intense changes in mood
  • Impulsivity
  • Self-harm
  • Poor self-image
  • Hopeless and helpless thinking
  • Fear of being abandoned
  • Difficulty with maintaining healthy relationships

For adults with BPD, the symptoms typically decline gradually with age, particularly past age 40.

Borderline Personality Disorder Symptoms in Adolescents

Historically, BPD has been diagnosed in adult only. However, research now indicates that that it’s possible to begin developing some symptoms before the age of 18.

As we know, the personality is still forming and changing during adolescence. Hormonal changes can cause mood swings and increases in anxiety and stress. Teens who may be predisposed to symptoms of BPD are experiencing more than the normal changes in mood and behavior. It is important to note that emerging symptoms of BPD are often different in teens that in adults.

Symptoms of emerging BPD in teens can include:

  • Increasingly unstable relationship with family and friends.
  • An unclear or shifting sense of self.
  • Impulsive or self-destructive behaviors. This may include self-harm.
  • Extreme changes in emotion with intense reactivity.
  • Intense anger.
  • Hopeless thinking or thoughts of suicide.

For teens, early diagnosis is critical so treatment can begin as soon as possible. The progression and outlook for adolescents with BPD is still being researched. But, we do know that appropriate treatment can significantly improve the management of symptoms. According to a review published in 2015, with DBT the remission rate for teens could range from 50 to 65 percent.

Treatment for Borderline Personality Disorder

One of the most effective treatments for the symptoms of BPD is Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), an evidence-based treatment that was created specifically to treat the symptoms of BPD. Its effectiveness is found in a philosophy of acceptance and change. Recent studies using MRI’s to scan the brains of individuals with BPD, showed that in just 12 weeks of DBT, the brain’s grey matter changed in response to this skill-building approach.

Pine Rest provides Dialectical Behavior Therapy for adults and teens outpatient clinics in Caledonia, Grand Rapids and Traverse City. Learn more about DBT at

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