Recovering from Borderline Personality Disorder

Borderline Personality Disorder is a frequently misunderstood mental health condition which carries some stigma from people who fear what they don’t understand. Due to the complexity and stigma, the condition can sometimes not be diagnosed or treated and people continue to suffer.

If Borderline Personality Disorder is diagnosed correctly, people can then understand their condition without judgement and the right form of therapy and treatment support can be identified. Most people do recover from Borderline Personality Disorder if the person is able to find the understanding, right fit with treatment support and has clear goals for recovery.

The treatment with largest evidence base for Borderline Personality is longer term therapy which aims to increase self-awareness and skills for self-regulation, such as Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) and Schema Therapy (ST) with a Psychologist and some may also need a Psychiatrist in conjunction.

Borderline Personality Disorder does not mean a person is crazy, dangerous or difficult. It is a genuine mental health condition which is strongly linked to a genetic vulnerability and the impact of trauma or chronic experiences of being invalidated (when a person’s personal experiences are regularly dismissed or undermined).

For people with Borderline Personality, research has shown that neural facial expressions are interpreted as potentially threating. This may been learnt from a previous real danger that has now been generalized. Therefore, a person may build defences to protect themselves from their experience of danger.

Typical symptoms of people with Borderline Personality Disorder are:

  • A rollercoaster of emotions in one day and difficulty regulating these emotions
  • Sensitivity to interpersonal stress and intense anger
  • Feeling inadequate, empty or fearing abandonment
  • Self-loathing and self-sabotage
  • Confusion about identity and life goals
  • Fleeting periods of paranoia
  • Disassociation (feeling detached from self or the environment, spacey, dreamlike)
  • Impulsivity with food, spending, sex or substances.
  • Self-harm or self-destructive tendencies
  • Chaotic and unstable relationships 
  • Experiencing internal contradictions that are hard to balance, eg feeling competent and feeling like a fraud, difficulty being by yourself or pushing people away

Most people have reported that with treatment they feel like a better version of themselves where they transcend their diagnosis and grow in a way they never thought possible. That is not to say that a person’s sensitivity will be lost. A strength of individuals with Borderline Personality is the capacity to feel deeply and depth of character that comes with this.

Katherine Bonaldi (Clinical psychologist) specializes in Borderline Personality Disorder. She has had extensive training and experience facilitating DBT, including with Marsha Linehan the DBT developer, and Schema Therapy.  Feel free to contact her for more information or an appointment.

If currently in crisis please contact your local GP, lifeline 131114 or local CATT team.

For further resources about Borderline Personality and treatments: bdpfoundation.org.au

References: SANE Aus; NHMRC: Clinical Practice Guidelines – Borderline Personality Disorder.