Borderline Personality Disorder

How We Treat Borderline Personality Disorder

Adult clients with a primary mood, thought or anxiety disorder and a co-occurring borderline personality disorder (BPD) often are admitted to our residential dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) program. Clients may also admit directly to our DBT day treatment program in Atlanta.

Recognized nationally as one of the best treatment facilities for borderline personality disorder, Skyland Trail uses only evidence-based practices and therapies to treat adults diagnosed with BPD.

By definition, you cannot be diagnosed with borderline personality disorder until you are an adult. Therefore, Skyland Trail does not offer adolescent treatment programs for borderline personality disorder.

What is Borderline Personality Disorder?

A serious and complex personality disorder seen primarily in adults between 18 and 35 years old, borderline personality disorder is characterized by mood instability, impulsivity, fears of being alone or abandoned and poor self-image.

For people with borderline personality disorder, everyday events can trigger significant changes in mood and emotional reactions. Clients who participate in our intensive DBT treatment community often have symptoms that include impulsivity, self-injurious behaviors or frequent suicide attempts.

The symptoms of borderline personality disorder can result in mood problems, but the illness is not defined by changes in mood. The symptoms of borderline personality disorder are relational. People with an untreated personality disorder tend to use the same approach, or personality construct, to cultivate relationships repeatedly. This lack of diversity in interacting with other people can lead to relationships that are confusing, difficult, and extreme. In turn these unstable relationships or resulting isolation can cause depression and anxiety. In fact mood and anxiety disorders frequently co-occur with personality disorders. Among patients who are in inpatient hospital settings, 40 percent of patients with mood disorders have co-occurring borderline personality disorder.

Signs and Symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder

Adults with BPD often lack healthy coping skills for handling stress or emotional discomfort and may also present the following symptoms and behaviors:

  • Intense fear of abandonment or rejection
  • Unstable or "stormy" relationships
  • Holding a distorted self-image that constantly influences their moods, decisions and priorities
  • Engaging in impulsive actions like reckless driving, binge eating, spending sprees, quitting jobs or leaving relationships, or unsafe sex
  • Feeling chronically bored, irritable, restless and empty
  • Thinking of suicide or attempting suicide when under stress
  • Experiencing intense anger, usually followed by expressions of guilt and shame
  • Self-injurious behaviors like cutting
  • Periods of disassociation, lasting from a few minutes to a few hours

Causes of Borderline Personality Disorder

Like most mental illnesses, scientists believe borderline personality disorder is caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors.  This is called the "stress-diathesis model." For individuals with a genetic predisposition for borderline personality disorder, experiencing stress, particularly childhood trauma, can trigger the development of symptoms.

Many people with borderline personality disorder report being sexually or physically abused or neglected during childhood. Other instability during early childhood may contribute to the development of the illness, including: separation from a parent or close caregiver, death of parent of close caregiver, or parents or caregivers who were not consistently present or involved because of substance use or other mental health issues.

Effective Treatments for Borderline Personality Disorder

Many of our DBT clients have tried other models of therapy unsuccessfully. Research indicates that medications are generally ineffective for the treatment of borderline personality disorder. People with borderline personality disorder often are prescribed medications to help manage mood and anxiety problems that result from the disorder, but medications do not affect or resolve the defining relational symptoms of the illness. Medications may also be prescribed to help decrease the likelihood that someone with borderline personality disorder will engage in self-injuring behaviors like cutting, as suicide is the major safety concern in untreated borderline personality disorder.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy, or DBT, has been proven to be an effective therapeutic approach for helping individuals who struggle with BPD or emotional disregulation manage their symptoms, feel safe and accepted, improve relationships, and live a life worth living. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) also shows promise as an effective therapy for borderline personality disorder.

Speak to a counselor at Skyland Trail to learn more about the symptoms and signs of borderline personality disorder and to learn more about treatment options.