Understanding Personality Disorders: Borderline Personality Disorder

Considered to be one of the most misunderstood and misdiagnosed mental illnesses, Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is a personality disorder marked by an ongoing pattern of varying moods, challenges with self-image, and a pattern of unstable relationships. Symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder often result in impulsive actions and difficulties in relationships. In fact, it is so stigmatized and misunderstood, that it is commonly used to describe the actions of people we see in the media that engage in violent behaviour, display intense emotions or behaviours we don’t quite understand. It has become an umbrella term, used to label people without much context. People with Borderline Personality Disorder are no more violent than the general population.

Borderline Personality Disorder is referred to as a biosocial disorder; meaning that it starts with a biological inclination which is exacerbated by the social environment. Causes of Borderline Personality Disorder is believed to be the result of an invalidating childhood environment, trauma, abuse, and neglect. The disorder can also be a result of caregivers minimizing or discounting a child’s emotional reactions, if they believe it is exaggerated or inappropriate. 

Selfish. Manipulative. Untreatable. Clingy.

This is how people (even mental health professionals) describe those who live with Borderline Personality Disorder. But considering what a person experiencing BPD deals with daily, these labels aren’t fair.

“People with BPD are like people with third degree burns over 90% of their bodies. Lacking emotional skin, they feel agony at the slightest touch or movement. That badly burned “emotional skin” means people living with BPD lack the ability to regulate their emotions, behaviors and thoughts. In fact, Dysregulation Disorder would be a more exact, less stigmatizing name for the condition.” That is how Dr. Marsha Linehan, the developer of Dialectical Behavioural Therapy, describes the Borderline experience. 

BPD involves instability in several areas of life, including relationships, emotions, identity, thinking patterns and mental state (i.e., suspicious thoughts about others, dissociation), and behaviour.

People with BPD often engage in self-destructive behaviours such as suicide attempts (up to 75% have attempted at least once), self-injury (up to 80% have self-injured) and death by suicide (approximately 10%). Many people with BPD struggle with intense self-hate, shame and feelings of inadequacy/failure. They have difficulty navigating relationships both at work and with loved ones, and difficulty understanding and managing their emotions.

New insights into Borderline Personality Disorder have led to new, more effective treatments; making the prognosis for someone diagnosed with the disorder much more promising. Current research shows that with the right support and treatment, most people with Borderline Personality Disorder will be able to terminate the diagnostic label. Treatment for Borderline Personality Disorder involves the use of a treatment modality called, Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT). 

Borderline Personality Disorder is believed to be rooted in trauma. It is important to remain hopeful and optimistic if you have this diagnosis.

Why? Because trauma can be transformed. Trauma not transformed, will transfer.