Frequently Asked Questions About Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)

Borderline Personality Disorder FAQs

Some people who experience frequent mood problems (depression, anxiety, frequently changing moods) also notice that they have difficulty in relationships, that they are impulsive, and that the world can seem strange or unreal at times.

Frequently Asked Questions About Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)

Answer 

Some people who experience frequent mood problems (depression, anxiety, frequently changing moods) also notice that they have difficulty in relationships, that they are impulsive, and that the world can seem strange or unreal at times.  They may also harm themselves, have thoughts of suicide, and even take suicidal action.  Sometimes people are assigned several different diagnoses to explain these problems.  But if symptoms come and go with stress, especially interpersonal stress, and change rapidly (within hours), Borderline Personality Disorder may be a better explanation, and it is worth discussing this possibility with a professional who knows about BPD.    

Somewhere between 1/100 and 1/20 people in the US have BPD.  We don’t know exactly what causes it, but do know that it can be passed down in families.  The genetics are as important in BPD as in other mental health problems like depression or schizophrenia.  We also know that early life trauma can increase the likelihood of later BPD.
 

Answered by Sarah Kathryn Fineberg, M.D., Ph.D.

Answer 

Treatment helps and many people get better over time.  I would recommend connecting with a treatment team that can talk with you openly about whether or not BPD is the best explanation for your difficulties, and being in treatment with someone who feels confident talking about and treating BPD.  For families, connecting to family support groups and learning about how to support your loved one with BPD has helped lots of people.  One great place to start is the NEA-BPD Family Connections program.  

For people affected by BPD and their families, both science and psychotherapy are teaching us some things that may not be intuitive, so getting access to experts can be really useful.  For just one example, science has taught us that people with BPD interpret a lot of other peoples’ emotions and statements as highly negative and critical.  Trained psychotherapists and informed family members who know about this “negative attribution bias” can help the affected person understand that their intentions are actually not so negative.  People with BPD can learn consider and weigh the possibility of negative attribution bias when faced with people who seem very critical or angry.  

The Brain & Behavior Research Foundation and other research organizations are supporting efforts to keep learning about the causes of BPD and also about how recovery works.  Clinical advocates are working hard to increase access to high quality treatment.  People with BPD and people who care about them are working to increase awareness and decrease stigma.  These multi-pronged efforts, and the growing collaborations between these various kinds of experts offer immense hope.
 

Answered by Sarah Kathryn Fineberg, M.D., Ph.D.