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What is Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)?

BPD is a serious mental health concern. People with BPD have difficulty managing their emotions and their relationships with other people. They often do things on the spur of the moment without thinking (they are impulsive), and they struggle with emptiness, anger, self-hatred, and hopelessness.

BPD is about as common as schizophrenia

  1. People with BPD make up about 0.2 to 1.8% of the general population, 8 to 11% of people who seek help from therapists and 14 to 20% of people who are hospitalized for psychiatric reasons.
  2. About 2/3 of people with BPD are women.

BPD is a Serious Disorder

  1. Approximately 75% of people with BPD have tried to commit suicide.
  2. People with BPD make up between 7 and 38% of all the people who die by suicide.
  3. Up to 80% of people with BPD intentionally hurt themselves (e.g., by cutting, burning, etc. without the desire to die).
  4. 5-10% of people with BPD die by suicide.

People with BPD struggle with Many Other Problems

  1. Up to 80% of people with BPD have Major Depressive Disorder (chronic depression).
  2. 66% of people with BPD have problems with drugs or alcohol.
  3. Up to 56% of people with BPD have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
  4. Many people with BPD struggle with eating disorders, social phobia, or other problems.

There is Hope for Recovery for People with BPD

  1. Over a 6-year period, approximately 70% of people with BPD experience major symptom reductions, sometimes not meeting criteria for BPD anymore.
  2. Most people with BPD who stop meeting criteria don’t go back to meeting criteria for the disorder.
  3. Suicide attempts, self-harm behavior, impulsive behavior, and serious emotional crises are most likely to go down over time.
  4. Certain relationship problems (fears of abandonment) and emotional distress are less likely to go down over time.

There are Treatments for BPD that Work

    • Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT, developed by Dr. Marsha Linehan at the University of Washington) has the best scientific evidence. DBT involves individual therapy and group therapy, in which patients learn how to (a) manage their emotions, (b) pay attention to the current moment (“mindfulness skills”), (c) deal with difficult relationships with other people, and (d) tolerate their emotions.
    • Other therapies that seem to work well for BPD include Mentalization-Based Treatment, Schema-Focused Therapy, and Transference-Focused Therapy.
    • Most people recommend that it is best for people with BPD not to only take medication, and to do therapy as well. The medications that seem most tolerable (least side effects) and that have the most evidence are Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (examples include Flovoxamine – Luvox, and Prozac).

Click here to read a New York Times opinion piece about the effectiveness of DBT