My friends, as you know May is Borderline Personality Disorder or BPD for short, Awareness Month. What you may not know is what BPD is, BPD is a severe mental illness that affects as many people, if not more people than, bi-polar disorder and schizophrenia. Unfortunately, because of the nature of BPD it is a highly stigmatized disorder.
BPD is characterized by a series of nine symptoms, of which a patient must have at least five of to be diagnosed a borderline, as those suffering from BPD are commonly called, resulting in a staggering 256 possible ways a person can be diagnosed with this terrifying condition. The symptoms are:
- Impulsiveness in at least two areas that are potentially self-damaging (i.e. Spending, Sex, Substance Abuse, Reckless Driving, Binge Eating)
- Recurrent suicidal behavior, gestures, or threats, or self-mutilating behavior
- Feelings of persecution or discontinuity of experience
- Life experienced in fragments
- Being let down can cause feelings of persecution
- Memories of good relationships may not be carried forward
- Inappropriate, intense anger or lack of control of anger (i.e. Frequent displays of temper, Constant anger, Recurrent physical fights)
- Splitting – a pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships characterized by alternating between extremes of idealization and devaluation.
- Affective (emotional) instability due to a marked reactivity of mood. Intense depressed mood, irritability, or anxiety
- Usually lasting a few hours only
- Rarely more than a few days
- Chronic feelings of emptiness
- Frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment .
- Identity disturbance
- Little Sense of Self
- Defining Self by Needs and Desires of Others
- Lack of Constant Picture of one’s Self, values and passion.
One of the scariest, if not the scariest, symptoms is suicidal tendencies, ideation, attempts and even worse successful attempts. The suicide rate amongst borderlines is 400 times or 40,000% higher than the general population, that rate jumps to 800 times greater when the borderline is a woman.
While BPD can be terrifying to read about, while those who suffer from it may at times be hard to live with, it does not make a borderline a bad person. It does not take away their right to be loved. It does not stop them from wanting love, and it definitely does not stop them from deserving love. They are people who are just like anyone else.
Sadly, because it can be a challenge to love them, it often tears apart the lives of not only the borderline, but of those that love them. Those that love them, suffer with them, often feeling helpless as they sit watching the turmoil their loved one is going through, unable to help them.
For many years, it was not even recognized as a true diagnosis, even today, there are those who deny its legitimacy. This leaves untold number of patients misdiagnosed, or worse undiagnosed, preventing them from getting the type of treatment they need.
One of the biggest challenges in diagnosing and subsequently treating people with BPD is the sheer number of possible combinations of symptoms. Another large challenge is that BPD is often co-morbid with at least one other mental illness. If drug or alcohol addiction is also present, then there are often four co-morbid conditions. Additionally it is estimated that research for BPD is decades behind the research for similar mental illnesses.
Today, a number of treatment options exist for the borderline, such as Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), Cognitive-Behavior Therapy (CBT), and Transference Focused Therapy (TFT) to name just a few, but there is still a long way to go.
There is hope; organizations such as the National Education Alliance for Borderline Personality Disorder (NEA-BPD) are working to raise awareness for this devastating condition. They also run a program, the Family Connections (http://www.borderlinepersonalitydisorder.com/family-connections.shtml), to help the families, friends and supporters of those living with a borderline, to better understand their loved ones suffering and how best to cope with it and help their loved one.
If you remember nothing else, remember this – people with BPD are good people and deserve love, tenderness, compassion, understanding and forgiveness just like anyone else. Do not give up on them, they need your support, they need you to believe in them. Trust me such a little thing as believing in them can mean the difference between life and death.
The motto for BPD Awareness Month is Awareness Brings Hope.