What Are the Symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder

There are nine symptoms. You must have five to qualify for the diagnosis.

  1. Frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment (this is less common)
  2. A pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships characterized by alternating between extremes of idealization and devaluation
  3. Identity disturbance: unstable self-image or sense of self
  4. Impulsivity in at least two areas that are potentially self-damaging (e.g., spending, sex, substance abuse, reckless driving, binge eating)
  5. Suicidal behavior, gestures, or threats, or self-mutilating behavior
  6. Difficulty regulating Mood (e.g., depression, irritability usually lasting a few hours and only rarely more than a few days)
  7. Chronic feelings of emptiness
  8. Inappropriate, intense anger or difficulty controlling anger
  9. Paranoid ideation or severe dissociative symptoms

What Causes BPD?

Brain abnormalities: Research shows changes in certain areas of the brain involved in emotion regulation. There is also evidence that BPD is caused by genetic factors.

Environmental factors: Many people (not all) with Borderline Personality Disorder have a history of childhood abuse, neglect and/or separation from caregivers or loved ones.

How is BPD Treated?

Medications including antidepressants, mood stabilizers and antipsychotics. In conjunction with medications, intense psychotherapy has been shown to be treatment of BPD.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy has been specifically designed to treat BPD. Although it is not the only form of talk therapy that can be used, it has helped lay the road for a better future for many BPD sufferers.

Where to Go for Help?

Victoria Mental Health has a Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) program that is part of the Urgent Short-term Assessment and Treatment (USTAT) Program. The DBT program requires a referral by a physician to Mental Health Intake. The intake is conducted over the phone. You may have to wait a few months to be contacted. There may also be a waiting list for the program.

Vancouver offers an intensive BPD outpatient program. The program requires a psychiatric assessment and referral from a physician.

What Can You Do to Help?

Victoria has a new grass routes awareness campaign to provide education about this often misunderstood mental illness. So far, the groundbreaking documentary “Back from the Edge” produced by The Borderline Personality Disorder Resource Centre has been shown at Movie Monday and fifty signatures have been gathered on a petition to change the misleading name of the disorder.

Why is BPD so Stigmatized?

People with BPD are currently the most stigmatized in the mental health system. A number of myths contribute to this problem including:

  1. MYTH: Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is a permanent condition that cannot be treated or improve.
    FACT: Research shows that people with BPD can recover with effective treatment. Recent reports state that up to 88% of people with the disorder experience significant improvement over time.
  2. MYTH: People with Borderline Personality Disorder are attention seeking and manipulative.
    FACT: The phrases “attention seeking” and “manipulative” imply that conscious and deliberate thought and planning is involved but most BPD behavior is not a deliberate attempt to manipulate people or get attention. It is an attempt to get their needs met.
  3. MYTH: People with BPD have a flawed personality.
    FACT: BPD is caused by a combination of environmental and neuro-biological causes, not a personality flaw.
  4. MYTH: People with Borderline Personality Disorder are dangerous to others.
    FACT: People with BPD are usually self-destructive rather than a danger to others. They have high suicide rates and frequently self-harm themselves (without lethal intent).
  5. MYTH: The term “Borderline Personality Disorder” is based on up-to-date research reflecting the true nature of the disorder.
    FACT: The term “borderline” was developed in the early 1900’s when psychoanalysts realized that BPD did not fit into their oversimplified way of categorizing mental illness – either as neurotic or psychotic. BPD was thought to be on the “borderline”. There is currently a move in the mental health field to have the name changed to something similar to Emotional Regulation Disorder in the next edition of the DSM.

Support in Victoria:

Overwhelming Emotions Support Group (web site)