Borderline Personality Disorder - A Misunderstood and Stigmatised Illness
Published: 07 January 2020
Published: 07 January 2020
Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is a type of mental illness. It is characterised by ongoing instability in the areas of interpersonal relationships, self-image and impulsivity (APA 2013).
The term ‘borderline’ was first used in the era of psychoanalysis when the condition was thought to exist on the border of psychosis and neurosis - BPD is now understood to be a disorder in its own right (Malcolm 2014).
It is estimated that 1-4% of the Australian population are living with BPD (Better Health Channel 2019). Approximately 10% of psychiatric outpatients are estimated to have BPD. The rate is close to 20% for people who are inpatients on mental health wards (Sane Australia 2016).
People living with BPD may experience difficulty in controlling impulses and emotions, relating to people and maintaining a stable self-image (Sane Australia 2016).
Generally, the symptoms of BPD first appear during teenage years or early adulthood (Sane Australia 2016).
Women are more likely than men to be diagnosed with BPD (Sane Australia 2016).
The intense, unstable nature of BPD can alienate those living with the condition, causing them to feel isolated and therefore increasing the risk of self-harm and suicide (Belmont Private Hospital n.d.).
BPD may be one of the most stigmatised mental illnesses, this stigma is likely a result of the following three factors:
(Beatson quoted by Malcolm 2014)
BPD can be extremely distressing for the person affected, as well as for their family and friends. Fortunately, there are treatments available for BPD, furthermore, people with BPD have a high recovery rate following diagnosis and treatment (Sane Australia 2016).
Common features of BPD are instability regarding:
This instability is accompanied by impulsivity, risk-taking and/or hostility. The person living with BPD will present with difficulties in regard to identity, self-direction, empathy, and/or intimacy.
To form a diagnosis, the above-mentioned patterns of unstable interpersonal relationships, goals, self-image and marked impulsivity will be indicated by five or more of the following:
(APA 2013 quoted by Australian BPD Foundation Limited)
There isn’t a singular known cause of BPD (Sane Australia 2016).
While BPD was previously believed to be directly caused by abuse or neglect in childhood, more recent research indicates that it is instead a complex combination of factors, including genetic predisposition, developmental or psychological problems, neglect, abuse, or trauma during childhood, that make certain people more susceptible to developing BPD (Sane Australia 2016).
The primary treatment for people living with BPD is psychological therapy. The aim of these therapies is to help people achieve a better understanding of their feelings, responses and behaviours (Sane Australia 2016).
Living with BPD can make a person feel that they have little control over their life. For this reason, establishing good routines, such as eating healthily, exercising and getting sufficient sleep can help a person regain a sense of control (Sane Australia 2016). Typically, the symptoms of BPD ease with age (Belmont Private Hospital n.d.).
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