Uncovering Borderline Personality Disorder – More Common Than You Know

There are nearly 3 million diagnosed cases of Borderline Personality Disorders each year in the United States. With that in mind, this particular personality disorder is often misdiagnosed or under-diagnosed. One of the reasons is that those that suffer from the disorder are often battling a number of other problems. They could also be experiencing depression, anxiety, substance abuse, eating disorders, self harm and even thoughts of suicide.

With such a variety of problematic behaviors, people with Borderline Personality Disorder are often time written off as being ‘too taxing’ or ‘not capable’ of successfully completing treatment or therapy. New Roads Behavioral Health has an open door for even the most severe cases. Each of our staff members have specialized training for just this type of disorder, and the therapy to treat Borderline Personality Disorder has been proven to be highly effective.

Increasing awareness for these kinds of disorders is especially vital to release the stigma that they are given in society. Mental health is something that is very important to understand but it is often given a very negative wrap. By increasing awareness and educating on the topic, it is our hope to give help to those that need it so that they can live a more fulfilling life with the challenges they are given.

What is Borderline Personality Disorder?

Personality disorders are often hard to identify. The behaviors that are learned by the individual are a very complex and deeply ingrained pattern that typically begins to develop around puberty. People that have personality disorders often find it very difficult to keep relationships, establish healthy living arrangements and successful careers. They encounter emotions, feelings and situations that they simply are not equipped to handle in a healthy manner and that is when the disorder becomes problematic.

There are several classifications of personality disorders. However, one that we see most common in treatment is Borderline Personality Disorder. This specific disorder is characterized by the person’s inability to regulate their emotions and mood. They often have a past filled with failed relationships and difficulty with social situations. Some people exhibit risky behavior, compulsiveness and self harm. They struggle with overwhelming sadness. They can also be perceived as having an inflated sense of self or being narcissistic.

Because the development of this disorder seems to peak in adolescence, there are many attachment disorders that can be related. Interpersonal skills are low, social skills are underdeveloped and feelings of isolation are a plague to an already not well mind. As vital as these years are for brain development, it’s any wonder that those with Borderline Personality Disorder are very dysregulated. They have a difficult time with conforming and following instruction because it doesn’t make sense to them. Many of the coping mechanisms that they develop can be perceived as “cockiness” or being overly confident. In reality, they are overcompensating for the lack of social skills.

A Day In The Life With Borderline Personality Disorder

People that have Borderline Personality Disorder can exhibit a number of odd behaviors. They can be antisocial, compulsive, hostile, irritable, self-destructive and isolated. They may have bouts of anger, anxiety, loneliness and guilt. Many suffer from comorbid disorders, meaning they have more than just Borderline Personality Disorder. They may also have depression or other psycho-social disorders.

From a personal account, read what Harriet Williamson says about being diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder:

“I was first diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder in 2012. And, at the time, I wasn’t really sure what that meant. I had never heard of the condition before. In some ways, it did feel like a label, and I don’t want it to define who I am. But I am glad I know what’s wrong with me.

Borderline Personality Disorder includes a range of quite diverse symptoms and not everybody with the condition will experience all of them. I tend to feel quite intense emotions that can feel very frightening at the time. I also get quite extreme mood swings. I have a lot of thoughts of self harm and suicide. I can behave quite dangerously if the impulse takes me. Sometimes it does feel like I’m on an emotional rollercoaster that I can’t get off. And I kind of want these extreme feelings to stop, but I can’t bring them to. If I’m experiencing quite a severe BPD episode, I can lose touch with reality in a way and I don’t feel in control and those periods are very frightening.

Writing has definitely helped me come to terms with my condition and feel less ashamed of it. When I published my first piece of advice I was very worried about what the response would be. But I was pleasantly surprise, I was pretty much overwhelmed with positive messages. I’ve been able to put something out there that they didn’t think they could say themselves…

Fear of judgement is very real. You have to chose the people that you tell very carefully. Because I write publicly about borderline, I’ve had to kind of get over that in a way. It is hard to put so much of yourself out there. If I was a much younger person, struggling with this illness, I would want to be able to read someone else’s experiences online and know that I wasn’t on my own with the disorder. That’s kind of why I use this platform I have, to break down stigma around mental health.” (BBC News; Feb 17, 2016)

Williamson is 24 years old, and she is a digital ambassador for the charity, “Young Minds”. Organizations like this are on a mission to help quell the taboo associated with mental health conditions and cure the stigma that society has assigned it. By hearing her story first hand, it lends a great deal of perspective and understanding for what people affected by this illness experience. Visit the link to BBC News to watch the video of the interview with Williamson where she delivers the narrative above.

As she describes, the realization of having this kind of disorder is perplexing, but for those that are affected by it – knowing they have it – is nearly half the battle. Finding the right therapy to help develop skills to overcome the setbacks can help them live fuller lives. Williamson’s valiant effort to write about her disorder and share what her episodes feel like, helps people with and without the disorder better understand the peril that lies within each round of emotional spikes. With her help, we can start to normalize and relate to each feeling and see the humanity behind the disorder instead of simply a label.

New Roads Treatment Program for Women with Borderline Personality Disorder

We have a specialized treatment program that is especially beneficial for women with Borderline Personality Disorder. Woman’s Road to Healing (Worth) helps clients build a life worth living with therapy and life skills training to establish independence. Many people that enter the program have had Borderline Personality Disorder for a long time but it has gone untreated, undiagnosed or it has been ignored. By correctly identifying those affected, treatment and therapy can be very effective in helping these people learn how to live with Borderline Personality Disorder.

Read what Eric Schmidt (MSW, LCSW, MBA), has to say about the program at New Roads Behavioral Health:

“The biggest challenge that we see there, is suicidal ideation and non-suicidal self injury. The folks that come in, bless their hearts, they are really dysregulated. They struggle with attachment, and they need a lot of skills. And so what we have done, I have trained my entire therapeutic staff and others on something that we call dialectical behavioral therapy, which was developed out of the University of Washington specifically for this population. We know it is very effective, it keeps people out of the ERs.

I think one of the challenges with the clients that have Borderline Personality Disorder, and our program is specifically for those clients that home is not an option. They really need an environmental intervention, which typically does not happen in Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, it’s more consultation to the patient. So there are a few places where we have environmental intervention. The other thing that we do, is we can do residential treatment for their addictions. So DBT does work for people with addiction as well. If you look at the criteria for how severe they are, so if they don’t have an environment that is going to help them stay clean and sober, if they have overlapping mental health issues, health issues, then we need to do an intervention that is maybe a little more intensive than regular Dialectical Behavioral Therapy. So that’s where we come in, with a program like ours that is relatively unique, we can provide more of an environment for healing as they are going through the year long process of Dialectical Behavioral Therapy.” Eric Schmidt, CEO and Founder of New Roads Behavioral Health

As Schmidt explained, residential treatment is especially effective for people that have been submersed in a toxic environment. Many times substance abusers have a variety of triggers in their “home” environment that causes them to dive deeper into addiction. This is very similar for those that suffer from emotional regulation. If any trigger exists in their environment, it could cause a deluge of emotion to overcome them in a stressful moment and have a negative impact on their emotional state. Residential treatment helps to provide a safe environment with unconditional acceptance and a assertive community of individuals with a common focus. This combined with intensive therapy helps to support an individuals to recovery from unhealthy patterns.

This is why the program at New Roads, fondly nick-named “Worth” is so effective and positively reviewed. Clients that enter the program are placed in a safe environment, free of triggers. With a team of supporters to help encourage healthy behavior, they are gradually progressing towards leading a more independent lifestyle. Recovery with treatment for Borderline Personality Disorder is definitely a possibility.

How is Borderline Personality Disorder Treated?

There is a method for therapy that is used to help those with Borderline Personality Disorder that has been found to be extremely effective. It is called Dialectical Behavioral Therapy. This therapy is a type of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) that was developed by Marsha Linehan at the Portland DBT Institute to specifically help those affected by Borderline Personality Disorder. It focuses on staying in the present and teaching skills to help cope through stress.

By becoming more self aware of triggers that bring on negative behaviors or thoughts, those affected by feelings of self harm and suicidal ideation are taught to take a more rational approach. DBT teaches to care for yourself first and then others around you. By keeping a hierarchy of emotions, clients are taught what feelings take precedence in a variety of situations.

There are four main areas of DBT:

  1. Mindfulness and Meditation
    Teaching mindfulness and meditation can help those with Borderline Personality Disorder take a step back from the panic or rush of emotions that they can experience in an episode. This teaches techniques from Buddhist practices to help those in the program view the world from a different perspective and form more clear thoughts about the world around them. This helps to keep their rational and emotional ways of thinking in balance. They learn to stop judging themselves harshly and impulsively and instead take a quiet moment to think clearly about themselves and what is happening in the moment.
  2. Emotional Regulation
    Often times people who are challenged with Borderline Personality Disorder feel like they are being taken over against their will; a flood of emotions that can often cause damage. DBT teaches them skills to identify, understand and manage these intense emotions. It is the objective of this area of DBT to help the client understand how to control their feeling instead of feeling helpless against them.
  3. Distress Tolerance
    Through years of episodes, many people with Borderline Personality Disorder have been conditioned to handle stressful situations in unhealthy ways. DBT helps them develop the skills to handle situations in an alternative way that is more healthy. Through mindfulness and radical acceptance, clients learn how to accept and tolerate the situation around them and respond in a more rational way. This teaches them to make more appropriate and less harmful decisions.
  4. Interpersonal Effectiveness
    This area of expertise in DBT helps clients work together with people around them in a more productive and peaceful manner. It teaches skills to help clients know how to fulfill their needs, manage conflict, and how to build interpersonal relationships.

Through acceptance and validation, DBT helps those with Borderline Personality Disorder understand their feelings and appropriate label them. Programs like the ones at New Roads Behavioral Health aim to be a guide and an ally to the clients that trust us with the treatment process. Healing is a very difficult process, but one that is possible for any person suffering with mental health conditions. Treatment helps to develop an assertive interpersonal approach for clients and incorporates a variety of skills to help keep patients centered on the main goal of recovery.

Treatment for Borderline Personality Disorder through Dialectical Behavioral Therapy has been very successful and continues to help bring clarity to many clients. As they become more aware of what it means to live life with this disorder, they are empowered to make appropriate changes to have a more healthy and successful life. The unique program at New Roads offers DBT with residential treatment, making it even more powerful. The positive impact of treatment combined with residential therapy has been well received.

The treatment team at New Roads is constantly listening, learning, reviewing and improving their programs. Our staff have extensive experience, specialized education and the right skills to help even the most severe cases.  

Eric Schmidt recounts a memorable success story of a young man with Borderline Personality Disorder and how the treatment program at New Roads worked for him when so many others had failed:

If you or someone that you know is suffering from thoughts of depression, self harm or may be affected by Borderline Personality Disorder, we encourage you to seek help. Treatment programs like ours are here to help and encourage growth. Call today to schedule a tour of our facility or get answers to your questions: 888-358-8998

Related Article by Eric Schmidt: DBT Offers A Balanced Approach For Addressing Borderline Personality Disorder (October 8, 2013)