What Is Borderline Personality Disorder?

When you hear about borderline personality disorder (BPD), you may think about Glenn Close's character in "Fatal Attraction." While depictions of the diagnosis in the media have produced captivating depictions, the characterization isn't always correct. Borderline personality disorder is not often discussed, and it's time that we changed that. It's important to know the traits of the condition, how to manage them, and how to support loved ones who may have been diagnosed with BPD.

Borderline personality disorder, sometimes called Emotional Dysregulation Disorder, is defined in The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, also known as the DSM and DSM-V, as a mental health condition involving a pervasive pattern of instability in emotional regulation, relationships with others, and self-image issues, according to WebMD. Borderline personality disorder tends to become apparent in early adulthood (per Verywell Mind). The traits of BPD can be exhibited in an array of contexts and affect multiple areas of a person's life. Here is what you should know about borderline personality disorder.

The traits of borderline personality disorder

Borderline personality disorder is diagnosed when five or more traits of the mental health condition are present, according to Verywell Mind. These traits include impulsivity, a pattern of unstable relationships, self-image issues, intense mood swings, and bouts of stress-related paranoia that can result in a loss of grounding in reality. People who have borderline personality disorder may also experience thoughts of self-harm, intense fear of abandonment, feelings of emptiness, and seeing themselves as being bad (via Mayo Clinic). Borderline personality disorder may also result in a lack of emotional regulation leading to destructive behaviors and difficulty managing one's reaction, which can lead to bursts of anger. The traits of borderline personality disorder may be first noticed by the person with BPD or by family and friends.

The traits of borderline personality disorder have similar traits to bipolar disorder, reports Verywell Health. However, there are important distinctions. Borderline personality is more associated with one's personality and affects a person's self-image and creates instability in relationships. Bipolar disorder is more associated with one's mood and hallmarked by abnormal highs and lows over time.

Treatment and monitoring of borderline personality disorder

When the traits and behaviors associated with borderline personality disorder begin to disrupt a person's daily life, then it is recommended to seek care and treatment from a licensed mental health professional or medical doctor. The most common professionals seen by people who have BPD are therapists and psychiatrists. The treatment of borderline personality disorder includes medication, talk therapy, and the monitoring of symptoms, as reported by Verywell Health.

Medication is a form of treatment that can help to manage traits of BPD, according to Healthline. In seeking out medication-based treatments, a psychiatrist is a professional who can help you determine the best treatment plan and prescribe medications. The medications prescribed to patients who have borderline personality disorder often include antidepressants, antipsychotics for managing anger, and anti-anxiety prescriptions. If you prefer a holistic approach or want to try alternative remedies alongside medical treatment, a study from Harvard University found that fish oil and omega-3 fatty acids may help to lessen symptoms of depression, aggression, and other invasive traits of BPD (per University Health News). Just remember that whether you decide to go with holistic products or prescription medication, it is always important to consult licensed healthcare professionals when seeking out new treatment options, and to discuss with your healthcare provider how medications and supplements may affect you.

Types of therapy for borderline personality disorder

When seeking out therapy, you'll want to try to find a licensed mental health professional who specializes in borderline personality disorder or emotional regulation.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is typically regarded as the best type of therapy for managing borderline personality disorder (via WebMD). DBT was originally designed to manage crisis behavior, and it has since evolved into a practice that can help patients become more aware of their emotions and learn how to remain present in the moment through utilizing mindfulness techniques. DBT can be helpful for learning how to mediate negative emotions and mood swings associated with BPD, as well as for improving communication to create stability within interpersonal relationships. 

Other forms of therapy that can be helpful in the treatment and management of BPD are Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), which encourages positive changes in a person's self image, and Schema-Focused Therapy (SFT), which emphasizes turning negative thoughts into positive ones, according to WebMD. Transference Focused Psychotherapy (TFP), a therapy that emphasizes transferring emotions from one person to another, and Anger Management courses can also be helpful therapeutic treatments for BPD (per Verywell Mind). If you or a loved one are experiencing traits of borderline personality disorder, therapy is a helpful treatment option to incorporate.

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline​ at​ 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.