Borderline personality disorder is one of the most prevalent mental disorders known today—with more than 3 million cases occurring the United States each year. Patients with this condition frequently find it difficult to keep their emotions under control and are prone to bouts of impulsivity and self-destructive behavior. BPD also makes it difficult for people to maintain healthy relationships, because patients often have a fear of abandonment and tend to categorize people as either completely good or bad.
While this disorder can prevent a person from living a normal life, there are thankfully a number of ways to treat it. Here is a look at the four most common methods—including therapy, medication, self-care, and hospitalization.
One of the most effective ways to help patients deal with their borderline personality disorder is with therapy. There are several techniques that specialists might use, but the two most common are cognitive behavioral therapy and dynamic deconstructive psychotherapy.
The driving force behind cognitive behavioral therapy is the idea that a person’s beliefs influence his or her emotions and perceptions of the world. Because of this, CBT therapists spend a majority of their time helping patients identify and correct distorted thinking about themselves and others. For example, a primary symptom of borderline personality disorder is idealization and devaluation, or the belief that people are either fully good or fully bad. Specialists using CBT work to challenge that assumption in their patients by pointing out instances in which good people behave badly and vice versa.
Dynamic deconstructive psychotherapy incorporates elements of neuroscience, behavioral psychology, and philosophy to help borderline personality disorder patients. The primary aim of this form of treatment is to help reduce a patient’s urge to categorize themselves and others in rigid, polarized categories. This technique is highly structured, and therapists employing it must follow guidelines laid out in the program’s manual. Sessions take place weekly for one hour over the course of twelve months. Ideally, once a patient has been involved in the therapy this long, they will be prepared to move onto a less intensive form of treatment.
Currently, there are no medications that can help patients manage all of the symptoms associated with borderline personality disorders. However, some people may find success with drugs that treat individual ones. Antipsychotic medications, such as haloperidol and ariprazole, reduce feelings of anger, impulsivity, and anxiety in borderline personality disorder patients, while some antidepressants can act as a mood stabilizer. Because of this limited uses of medication for treating this condition, many doctors will not recommend them for their borderline personality patients. However, if a person is suffering from a co-morbid condition that can be effectively treated with medication (like depression), drugs may be a more viable option.
Self-care techniques may be especially helpful for some patients, but they are by no means a cure for borderline personality disorder—they should only be used in conjunction with other forms of treatment. BPD patients frequently have low self-esteem and a distorted perception of themselves, and things like maintaining a healthy diet, getting plenty of rest, and exercising regularly can improve these dramatically. However, there is a downside to this approach. If a patient tries several self-care methods and does not experience an improvement of symptoms, he or she may internalize this failure, which will only make self-perception even more negative.
In extreme cases, borderline personality disorder patients may need to be hospitalized, such as if they are a danger to themselves or others. While this approach ensures that they will receive frequent treatment from trained specialists, many people are opposed to the idea of hospitalization because of the stigma surrounding mental health facilities.