Borderline Personality Disorder and Emotion Dysregulation
Many adolescents display some amount of personality disorder traits during adolescence, and it is considered a matter of typical, non-problematic development by developmental experts. Personality disorder traits become problematic and could be indicative of a diagnosable personality disorder when these behaviors become rigid and interfere with one’s ability to function in his or her daily life. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) lists ten standalone personality disorders and based on similar characteristics, each personality disorder is grouped into one of three categories (cluster A, cluster B, and cluster C). Borderline personality disorder (BPD) belongs to cluster B, which according to the Mayo Clinic is “characterized by dramatic, overly emotional or unpredictable thinking or behavior.” More specifically, the Merck Manual explains that BPD is “characterized by a pervasive pattern of instability and hypersensitivity in interpersonal relationships, instability in self-image, extreme mood fluctuations, and impulsivity.” Emotional dysregulation is a term used within the mental health field to denote irrational, poorly modulated emotional responses, which is a core feature of borderline personality disorder.
The cause of borderline personality disorder remains unknown, but the National Institute of Mental Health (NIH) alludes to research that “suggests that genetics, brain structure and function, and environmental, cultural, and social factors play a role, or may increase the risk for developing a borderline personality disorder.” The signs and symptoms of borderline personality disorder are highlighted in the diagnostic criteria that are outlined in the DSM-5. According to the DSM-5, to be diagnosed with BPD a young person must experience five or more of the following symptoms in a variety of contexts:
- Emotional instability
- Feelings of emptiness
- Efforts to avoid abandonment
- Impulsive behaviors
- Identity disturbances
- Inappropriate, irrational, and/ or intense bouts of anger
- Transient paranoid and/ or dissociative symptoms
- Unstable interpersonal relationships
- Suicidal and/ or self-harming behaviors
The treatment for BPD often includes long-term participation in psychodynamic models of psychotherapy such as dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). DBT was developed by Marsha M. Linehan in the late 1980s, intended to be used as a means to treat chronically suicidal individuals diagnosed with a borderline personality disorder. It is founded on the principles of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and blends Eastern mindfulness techniques (e.g., awareness, mindfulness, and attentiveness to current situations and emotional experiences) to encourage acceptance and change. DBT emphasizes the psychosocial aspect of treatment and is intended to help treat young people exhibiting self-destructive behaviors and/ or struggling with emotional dysregulation.
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Every family in need of mental health treatment must select a program that will best suit the needs of their family. When one member of a family struggles, it impacts everyone in the family unit. To maximize the benefits of treatment we work closely with the entire family to ensure that everyone is receiving the support they need through these difficult times.
Seeking help is never easy, but you are not alone! If you or someone you know needs mental health treatment, we strongly encourage you to reach out for help as quickly as possible. It is not uncommon for many mental health difficulties to impact a person’s life, in the long term. Pursuing support at the beginning of one’s journey can put the individual in the best position to learn how to manage themselves in a healthy way so they can go on to live happy and fulfilling lives.
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