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What is BPD?

BPD is the commonly used acronym for Borderline Personality Disorder.

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is an often misunderstood condition that can be very debilitating for those who suffer with it and their families. BPD sufferers, estimated to be around six million people in the U.S., experience episodes of emotional intensity that are difficult to contain. At its core, BPD is a psychological disorder that adversely affects one’s ability to regulate emotions. In short, this inability causes emotions to go from one extreme to another, sometimes for seemingly little or no reason. These rapidly changing, intense emotional experiences create significant problems for the person experiencing them. At its extreme, symptoms of BPD can include suicidal thoughts or gestures, addictions to substances or problematic behaviors, chronic feelings of emptiness and chaotic relationships with others. Not only is BPD painful for the person who suffers from it, but it can also be very difficult for family members who find themselves “walking on egg shells” in an effort to not make it worse. BPD traits can vary greatly in intensity among individuals. In fact, many persons who do not meet all the criteria for BPD may find that they struggle these same problems to a lesser degree.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT®) has been shown to be highly effective in treating both individuals who struggle with BPD or similar psychological problems. Those who have found significant help and guidance in their lives include people from all walks and stages of life. Dialectical Behavior Therapy offers help to anyone who finds him or herself having difficulty regulating painful emotions or maintaining positive and satisfying relationships. When the average person feels anger, sadness, or emotional pain, healthy coping mechanisms kick-in to contain the feelings. These coping skills ensure that the intensity of feeling does not overwhelm the individual and cause them to express feelings in destructive ways such as violence toward self or others. This is described as having the ability to regulate emotions, i.e. think and behave in ways that help one feel calmer and in control of emotions and behaviors. Under extreme emotional distress, such as the loss of a loved one or a threat to ones sense of emotional or physical safety, even the average person’s ability to manage painful feelings may fail. Individuals with BPD often have extreme difficulty in these situations and sometimes act in ways that are harmful to themselves or their relationships when experiencing such a crisis.

Many with BPD have suicidal thoughts and approximately 10 percent will commit suicide. Some may cut or otherwise harm themselves to manage their internal suffering. People suffering with BPD may have a biological predisposition to feel emotions more intensely than the average person. For example, they more readily perceive threats to their emotional or physical safety in situations that most people do not interpret as dangerous. Or, they may express anger as rage and verbally or physically attack the source of such anger. Researchers have also found that a high percentage of individuals with BPD have come from families where there was physical, emotional, or sexual abuse (often referred to as the “invalidating environment”). The combination of feeling emotions more intensely and experiencing an invalidating childhood is thought to be one of the main causes of BPD in adults. If you are in a relationship with someone with BPD you may have experienced the “walking on eggshells” feeling. Everyday interactions can become minefields where misperceived statements or behaviors are interpreted as threats triggering a verbal or physical explosion. The emotional volatility can create a chaotic and emotionally damaging environment, especially for children.