BPD: Myths, Facts, and Help

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Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a mental health condition surrounded by harmful myths. These myths often make it much harder for those struggling with BPD to find facts about their condition and make them less likely to ask for help.

However, these myths can be easily debunked.

BPD In Young Adults

Before examining some of the myths around borderline personality disorder, it is vital to understand how the symptoms manifest in young people. They may struggle with:

  • A fear of abandonment
  • Self-harm
  • Extreme mood swings
  • Self-destructive behaviours
  • Feelings of loneliness and emptiness

Because of these symptoms, many people draw the wrong conclusions about people struggling with BPD.

Mythbusting BPD

Unfortunately, many things you may have heard about BPD will be a myth.

There is a lot of stigma around this condition, with people viewing those struggling with this disorder as irresponsible or even scary. However, this is unfair stereotyping and is not true in the slightest.

Myth: BPD is untreatable.

Fact: This is an incredibly harmful myth that may lead young adults struggling with BPD to put off seeking treatment as they believe it will do nothing. BPD is treatable with a combination of medication and therapy. There are many treatments available for BPD, including:

  • Dialectical behavioural therapy (DBT) – DBT is a form of treatment based on cognitive-behavioural therapy that was specifically designed to treat people with borderline personality disorder. Those with BPD who are treated with DBT are shown to have less severe suicidal ideation, less anger, and improved social functioning.
  • Art therapy – this therapy provides a creative outlet for those with BPD to process their emotions without the need for words. Studies have shown that art therapy can help those with personality disorders to improve their emotional and social functioning.[1]
  • Medication – using medication can help manage the severe symptoms of borderline personality disorder. Although there is no medication dedicated specifically to BPD, antidepressants, mood stabilisers, and anti-anxiety medications can help people manage their symptoms more effectively.

BPD treatment is more effective when it is started early. If people delay for too long, they can develop unhealthy coping mechanisms that are difficult to change and can potentially put their lives in danger.

Although it is a serious mental health condition, borderline personality disorder is not a life sentence. Treatment may be complex and may take a while, but it does work, and there is a favourable prognosis for those diagnosed – in fact, after just two years of treatment, 50% of those diagnosed with BPD will not meet the criteria for a diagnosis.

Myth: BPD is a rare condition.

Fact: Millions of people have borderline personality disorder, and it is more common than many may think. It is estimated that approximately 1.6% of the US population has BPD, and around seven in every one thousand people in the UK. Around 75% of those diagnosed with BPD are women, possibly because more women than men seek treatment.

Despite the prevalence of BPD, there is a high rate of misdiagnosis. 40% of people with BPD have previously been diagnosed with conditions such as major depressive disorder or bipolar disorder.[2]

Myth: People with BPD are just attention-seeking.

Fact: People with BPD act out due to their mental health, not because they want attention. The main stigma surrounding people with BPD is that they are dramatic, manipulative, and highly attention-seeking; however, this is because of BPD symptoms, which include intense emotions and impulsiveness and potentially dangerous actions.

Because of this harmful myth, people with BPD can neglect treatment or even refuse to admit that something may be wrong. Even if they seek help, those with BPD may encounter medical practitioners who do not engage with them and do not help their condition.

People and young adults with BPD struggle with suicidal thoughts, and around 70% will attempt suicide at least once in their lifetimes.[3] Behaviour that some people may write off as being attention-seeking, such as self-harm or extreme mood swings, can often be a cry for help.

If you recognise the signs of BPD in a loved one, don’t hesitate to reach out to The Wave for help, as early intervention improves the efficacy of treatment massively.

How To Help

If a young adult in your life has been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, there are multiple ways to help:

  • Be patient – young adults struggling with BPD can struggle with outbursts of anger or extreme mood swings in response to seemingly minor problems. Instead of reacting angrily in the moment, be patient and wait until you are both calm to discuss how they feel.
  • Don’t judge them – listen to your teen’s problems and feelings without judging them. It is essential to acknowledge their feelings and not make them feel like they are overreacting, invalid or wrong.
  • Learn their triggers – ask your teen what topics or scenarios trigger them and may lead to an outburst or negative emotions.
  • Educate yourself – learning more about BPD can help you find areas to support your teenager and remove some more myths around this condition.

If your teenager is going through BPD treatment, being involved throughout the treatment process can improve the outcomes massively. When teenagers know that their families support them, they are more active in treatment and respond better to therapy.

Conclusion

Many harmful myths and stereotypes surround borderline personality disorder. However, they are very easy to debunk, and none are true. BPD is a treatable condition that has an excellent prognosis – the biggest obstacle is asking for help.

Contact The Wave today if you know a young adult or teenager struggling with borderline personality disorder. Our expert clinicians provide intensive mental health treatment at our beautiful luxury residence in Malaysia, with personalised plans created for every client.

Sources:

[1] Haeyen, Suzanne et al. “Benefits Of Art Therapy In People Diagnosed With Personality Disorders: A Quantitative Survey”. Frontiers In Psychology, vol 11, 2020. Frontiers Media SA, https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.00686. Accessed 23 Feb 2022.

[2] Ruggero CJ, Zimmerman M, Chelminski I, Young D. Borderline personality disorder and the misdiagnosis of bipolar disorder. J Psychiatr Res. 2010;44(6):405–408. doi:10.1016/j.jpsychires.2009.09.011

[3] Wedig MM, Silverman MH, Frankenburg FR, Reich DB, Fitzmaurice G, Zanarini MC. Predictors of suicide attempts in patients with borderline personality disorder over 16 years of prospective follow-up. Psychol Med. 2012;42(11):2395–2404. doi:10.1017/S0033291712000517

 


 

Fiona Yassin is the International Clinical Director of The Wave Clinic. Fiona is a UK Registered Adolescent and Family Psychotherapist and Clinical Supervisor (Licence number #361609 NCP/ICP), further trained in the specialty of Eating Disorders and Borderline Personality Disorder Treatment. Fiona is trained in FBT (Family Based Therapy), CBTE for eating disorders, FREED (King’s College, London), EMDR for eating disorders (EMDRIA) and has a Post-Graduate Diploma in Neuroscience and Trauma from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

Fiona works with international families and family offices from the UK, Dubai, Kuwait, Singapore and Malaysia. Fiona can be contacted by email on [email protected].

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