What is Borderline Personality Disorder?

Emotion regulation is a critical skill that allows us to have jobs, nurture relationships, and take care of ourselves. It’s what allows us to feel sad but still show up for work and function. Without the ability to regulate and manage our emotions, life becomes very painful and difficult. This is one of the hallmarks of borderline personality disorder, a condition that affects 1 to 2 percent of Canadians. Keep reading to learn more about this disorder.

What is Borderline Personality Disorder?

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is a very complex mental illness in which the person living with BPD struggles to manage their emotions. They are prone to being impulsive and highly sensitive. Minor changes to their environment or relationships can cause severe emotional distress. 

Some of the symptoms of BPD include:

  • Paranoia and dissociation
  • Risk-taking behaviours
  • Self-harm
  • Suicidal ideation 
  • Volatile relationships 
  • Intense episodes of anger and anxiety

10 percent of people living with BPD will die by suicide. None of these symptoms should be overlooked, especially not suicidal ideation. 

BPD is more commonly diagnosed in young adults, usually in their 20s, than children and older adults. Women are diagnosed more frequently than men with BPD (however that does not mean they experience BPD more commonly than men), and if a close family member has been diagnosed with BPD, you are five times more likely to also be diagnosed.  

Problems with Diagnosing BPD

BPD is a difficult condition to diagnose because it is common for other mental illnesses to also be present in the individual which can lead to BPD symptoms being hidden. The symptoms of BPD can also overlap with other mental illnesses, sometimes leading to misdiagnosis.

Some of the common comorbidities to BPD include bipolar disorder, substance use disorders, eating disorders, depression, and PTSD.

Myths and Misconceptions About BPD

Mainstream media has given society an inaccurate depiction of what BPD is. Here are some of the common myths and misconceptions.

  1. It’s a Women’s Mental Illness

    False. Men and women can experience BPD equally, but their symptoms might vary from one another. Women are more likely to seek clinical help: 80 percent of patients that receive treatment are female.
  2. BPD is Always Caused by Abuse in Childhood

    Childhood abuse and trauma can certainly be factors for developing BPD, but they are not required for diagnosis. This misconception is harmful as it discredits those living with this illness who did not experience childhood trauma.
  3. There’s No Treatment for BPD.

    Currently, this is no cure for BPD. However, there are treatment options that can make living with this disorder much more manageable and less painful. 

How to Treat BPD

BPD can be treated with a variety of therapies, but there is no one-size-fits-all. For some, medication and psychotherapy are effective; others find dialectical behavioural therapy most effective. Learning more about the illness can provide empowerment and help self-treat the symptoms.

Looking for Ways to Help Broaden the Treatment Options for Young Adults with BPD?

Eli’s Place will be Canada’s first rural residential treatment centre for young adults living with serious mental illness, like BPD. Our recovery-based program will help close the gap in our mental health care system for adults aged 18-35. Click here to learn how you can help us open our doors.

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