Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is one of the most stigmatized mental health conditions and its sufferers are among the most vilified. Clients often come into my office demoralized and panicked by the horrible things that they’ve read about their diagnosis online. I write this to provide a counterpoint to the widespread misinformation about BPD online, and to instill hope in those who have BPD or who love someone who does.

What is Borderline Personality Disorder?

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is a pattern of behavior that includes:

• Difficulty regulating emotions

• Difficulty managing relationships

• Impulsive action

• Ineffective coping and problem-solving skills

BPD is not a moral failing, a character defect, or a sign of weakness. To the contrary, individuals with BPD are often incredibly resilient individuals who have tried very hard to resolve their suffering on their own. Nor is BPD a life sentence – recovery from BPD is possible!

 Recovery from Borderline Personality Disorder

One study (Zanarini et al., 2003) examining outcomes among individuals with BPD 6-years post-hospitalization found that 69% of participants no longer met criteria for BPD and that 56% of participants were functioning well both occupationally and socially. At the 10-year follow-up, 93% of participants had achieved symptom remission lasting 2-years and 86% had achieved symptom remission lasting 4-years (Zanarini et al., 2010). In this study, 70% of study participants remained in treatment post-hospitalization.

Another testament to individuals’ capacity for healing is the story of Dr. Marsha Linehan, Ph.D., who recovered from symptoms of BPD (Carey, 2011). Dr. Linehan combined her life experience and rigorous scientific training in order to create Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT; Linehan, 1993), the gold standard treatment for BPD.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy

Effective treatment for BPD is available! Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) has been extensively researched and found to be effective for the treatment of BPD and co-occurring substance abuse. DBT consists of the following treatment components:

  • Weekly individual therapy aimed at helping clients create lives worth living (currently available at the Center for Integrated Behavior Health)
  • Weekly skills training (currently available at the Center for Integrated Behavior Health on an individual basis; groups will be starting Fall 2014) teaching the following:

o   Mindfulness: to be fully aware of the present moment without judgment and to participate in life more fully

o   Distress Tolerance: to make it through crises without making things worse

o   Emotion Regulation: to effectively manage emotions in ways that don’t cause additional problems

o   Interpersonal Effectiveness: to effectively manage relationships with others, accomplish goals and maintain self-respect

o   Walking the Middle Path: to validate and apply behavioral principles to self and others

  • Telephone consultation and coaching (will be available to skills group participants starting Fall 2014)

While successfully completing DBT and achieving recovery from BPD requires sustained time and effort, individuals with BPD possess the strength, resiliency and determination needed to thrive in treatment, end their suffering, and create lives worth living.

References

Carey, B. (2011, June 23). Expert on mental illness reveals her own fight. The New York Times, Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/23/health/23lives.html?pagewanted=1

Linehan, M.M. (1993). Cognitive-behavioral treatment of borderline personality disorder. New York: Guilford Press.

Zanarini, M.C., Frankenburg, F.R., Hennen J., & Silk, K.R. (2003).The longitudinal course of borderline psychopathology: 6-year prospective follow-up of the phenomenology of borderline personality disorder. American Journal of Psychiatry, 160(2), 274-83.

Zanarini, M., Frankenburg, F.R., Reich, D.B., & Fitzmaurcice, G. (2010). Time to attainment of recovery from borderline personality disorder and stability of recovery: A 10-year prospective follow-up study. American Journal of Psychiatry, 167(6), 663-667.