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Borderline Personality Disorder: Causes and Treatment

Borderline Personality Disorder is one of the most common of the personality disorders, affecting approximately 15% of the population. Sufferers typically indulge in intense but stormy relationships, have difficulty exerting control over their emotions, display marked impulsivity in their behaviors, fear abandonment and may indulge in self-harming behaviors and suicidal thoughts.

Sufferers of borderline personality disorder often have associated mood disturbances with up to 70% also experiencing major depression. Eating disorders are also common: up to 25% of bulimics have a co-diagnosis of borderline personality disorder. Well over 50% of substance abuse sufferers also show signs of borderline personality disorder.

Although there is some suggestion of a genetic factor influencing the manifestation of this disorder, environmental factors are held to be of greater importance. Early trauma in childhood is regarded as one of the precipitating causes of the disorder. The trauma may range from sexual abuse, through to an abusive family background, even rapid cultural changes such as occur when a child moves with its family from one culture to another.

As more females suffer from borderline personality disorder than males, early sexual or physical abuse is currently regarded as one of the most likely factors influencing the development of the condition. As such abuse is more widespread among females, this would also account for the gender bias towards females. It is important to remember, however, that individuals who suffer from early childhood abuse do not all go on to develop the disorder, not does every sufferer of personality disorder report incidences of abuse.

Thought processes are believed to influence the way in which a person suffering from this disorder views the world. In one experiment, non-emotive words were shown to a group of individuals with and without borderline personality disorder. When non-emotive words were shown, both groups performed similarly in memory tests. But when words such as “abandon,” “emptiness,” “void,” etc where shown, the participants who experienced borderline personality disorder not only remembered more of these words but experienced an emotional reaction to them.

Few conclusive studies regarding medications for treating this condition have been carried out. Antidepressants and antipsychotics are the drugs of choice. However co-existing conditions such as substance abuse, inability to form relationships (in this case with the therapist), sexualizing relationships (in the case of a male therapist and a female patient) and failure to comply with treatment can make for a difficult road to recovery.

Teaching sufferers to better handle stressors in their lives is the best form of treatment currently available since stress exacerbates the symptoms of the disorder. Learning to read situations better, seeking money-handling skills, utilizing coping skills to minimize the impulsive “flight” of the stressed sufferer are ways in which the condition can be better managed. Organizing ongoing support for sufferers also minimizes the feelings of emptiness and hopelessness experienced by many individuals with this disorder.


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