Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is a condition that is estimated to affect about 1.4 percent of the American population. This condition is characterized by individuals having difficulties regulating their emotions, usually resulting in a wide range of issues regarding their relationships and functionality in everyday life.
Borderline Personality Disorder in teens has been regularly studied by psychologists, both in the United States and elsewhere around the world. While some professionals argue that a firm diagnosis of BPD should be avoided for anyone under 18—due to various complications and the fact that a teen’s personality has not been completely developed—others state that is diagnosis may be appropriate for anyone demonstrating the symptoms at age 13 and beyond.
Regardless, if your teen has been exhibiting the signs and symptoms of borderline personality disorder, you should do everything in your power to seek help and connect them with the resources they need to live their best life. When given the right combination of therapy, medication, and other treatment options, individuals suffering from borderline personality disorder can improve the way they control their emotions and, consequently, increase the likelihood of living a productive life.
In this article, we will answer some of the most common questions that parents might have about borderline personality disorder. While this condition is rarer than other mental health conditions, it can have a profound impact on an individual’s well-being. By understanding this condition and empowering your teen to meet with a medical professional, you can play an important role in increasing your teen’s quality of life.
What is Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)?
Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), as defined by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), is a “condition characterized by difficulties regulating emotion. The specific “baseline” and “triggering events” influencing individuals suffering from BPD will vary by individual, but typically, a diagnosis of BPD is deemed appropriate when emotional mismanagement interferes with an individual’s ability to lead a normal life. As stated, BPD affects about 1.4 percent of all people in the United States, making it one of the most common personality disorders.
When is it an appropriate age to receive a diagnosis of BPD?
Psychologists have intensely debated whether a diagnosis of BPD is appropriate for children and teenagers. Generally, either 13 or 18 are considered the ages where BPD can begin being diagnosed. However, a large portion of this debate may be semantic—if your teen is exhibiting the signs and symptoms of BPD, even if their psychologist does not issue a diagnose, they can still receive treatment and medications that will help them better regulate their emotional state.
What are the signs and symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder?
Like all mental health conditions, Borderline Personality Disorder will have a specific set of signs and symptoms associated with it. The framework for diagnosing BPD is laid out in the fifth version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. One of the most common signs of BPD is splitting relationships (romantic, familial, professional, etc.). Splitting involves rapidly alternating between feelings of love and hate for the same individual. Similarly, individuals with BPD may cycle between states of depression and anxiety (which overlaps with bipolar disorder).
Other common signs of BPD include dramatically expressed feelings of abandonment, difficulties getting over otherwise minor issues (such as a broken glass), impulsive behaviors and poor judgment (especially regarding sex, substance abuse, and spending), and unstable self-image. Individuals suffering from BPD may also have feelings of disassociation, which can cause them to feel as if they are having “out of body” experiences on a regular basis. All of these symptoms, especially when combined, can make it difficult for individuals to maintain relationships, perform well in school, and live an otherwise “normal” life.
What are some of the most common causes of Borderline Personality Disorder?
Borderline Personality Disorder is believed to be caused by both genetic and environmental factors. Individuals whose parents, siblings, or extended family members have BPD are statistically more likely to display signs and symptoms. Traumatic life events, including abuse, exposure to violence, and substance abuse issues, have also been identified as possible triggers. Furthermore, damage to the judgment and emotion-regulating parts of the brain can potentially trigger the condition, even when there were no signs exhibited in the past. BPD exists upon a spectrum, rather than a binary, which can make diagnosis rather difficult.
Is Borderline Personality Disorder related to any other mental health conditions?
As you might expect, there is a significant amount overlap between BPD and other mental health conditions—this is yet another reason why the condition can be difficult to accurately diagnose. BPD has a significant correlation with other personality disorders of all groups, but especially the emotional and impulsive group (which includes histrionic personality disorder and narcissistic personality disorder). BPD has also been found to be connected with depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). BPD can both exacerbate and be exacerbated by substance abuse disorders, which is why dual diagnosis and co-occurring treatment options are so fundamentally important.
What are the best treatments for BPD in teens?
Currently, there are many different treatment options for individuals (and teens) suffering from borderline personality disorder. In the most severe cases, residential treatment can help provide intensive treatment and lasting results. In less intense cases, various psychotherapy strategies will likely be recommended.
Two of the most common psychotherapy techniques for treating BPD include dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Both of these strategies seek to equip individuals with the tools they need to recognize triggers, respond in an appropriate manner, and otherwise regulate their emotions. Currently, there are no medications that are designed to specifically treat BPD, but there are many medications that may be recommended in order to aid emotional and behavioral management.
Mood stabilizers and antidepressants are commonly recommended. Only a licensed medical professional can issue a proper treatment recommendation, which is why it will be crucial to connect your teen with the help they need sooner, rather than later.
Conclusion – Borderline Personality Disorder
While Borderline Personality Disorder can be a debilitating condition, with the proper treatment, this condition can be effectively managed. BPD is characterized by difficulties regulating emotions, impulsive decision-making, and various other symptoms. If you believe your teen is suffering from BPD or other related conditions, it will be crucial to be supportive and connect them with the mental health support they need.