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The Intense Emotions of Borderline Personality Disorder

Borderline personality disorder signs and treatment, Borderline personality disorder, Emotional intensity disorder, Dialectical behavioral therapy
Borderline personality disorder (BPD), also called emotional intensity disorder, is diagnosed when a person has trouble regulating emotions. Of course, we all have trouble regulating our emotions from time to time. Tempers flare. Sobs erupt. Excitement bursts forth in words or gestures.  The difference in periodic emotional intensity versus borderline personality disorder is that BPD interferes with one’s ability to function in daily routines. Someone with BPD has difficulty holding down a job, staying in a relationship, and understanding who they are and what they need. People with BPD may feel like they’re on a big pendulum, swinging from one extreme mood to the opposite, from loving something or someone intensely to hating it or them in equal measure. Something or someone is all good or all bad, with no nuance. 

Signs of Borderline Personality Disorder

Such intense emotions often lead to impulsive and reckless actions. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) lists signs and symptoms of borderline personality disorder, a few of which we highlight below:
  • Fear of abandonment, which can lead to “plunging headfirst into relationships—or ending them just as quickly”
  • A pattern of intense and unstable relationships with family, friends, and loved ones.
  • Impulsive behaviors like spending sprees, unsafe sex, substance abuse, reckless driving, and binge eating 
  • Intense moods that can last a few hours to a few days
  • Problems controlling anger.
  • “Feelings of dissociation, such as feeling cut off from oneself, observing oneself from outside one’s body, or feelings of unreality”
Because people with BPD can behave so hurtfully toward others, it can be difficult to recognize how much pain they’re in. But many people with this disorder resort to self-harm or even suicide as a way to cope with the chronic feelings of emptiness and distorted sense of who they are.

Diagnosing Borderline Personality Disorder

It can be difficult to accurately diagnose BPD because its symptoms are similar to those of other mood disorders. For example, the impulsive behavior of BPD is similar to the impulsive behavior people with bipolar disorder display when in a manic state. It’s even more complicated to diagnose BPD when other disorders are at play, like post-traumatic stress disorder, substance use disorder, anxiety disorders, or eating disorders, all of which have overlapping symptoms.    However, with consistent care over time, a psychiatrist or psychotherapist can come to understand the pattern of symptoms, make an accurate diagnosis, and provide effective treatment. 

Treatments for Borderline Personality Disorder

While no medication specifically addresses BPD, medications may be used to help with symptoms of anxiety or depression that arise with a BPD diagnosis.  Psychotherapy is the first and most effective avenue for treating people with BPD. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a helpful, evidence-based treatment that teaches patients how to become aware of their thought patterns and how those patterns affect their behavior.  An offshoot of CBT, dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) was specifically developed to address borderline personality disorder. DBT focuses on helping patients learn to regulate emotions using mindfulness. It teaches patients to accept themselves for who they are while also working toward change.  According to the National Education Alliance for Borderline Personality Disorder, the most difficult BPD symptoms to treat are the fear of abandonment, relationship instability, and feelings of emptiness. Treatment is “more effective in decreasing anger, suicide attempts and self-harm, as well as helping to improve over-all functioning and social adjustment.” Even though people with BPD may have additional issues related to co-occurring disorders, “research suggests that full-blown BPD symptoms rarely com[e] back after remission.”

Eagle View Can Help

If you or a loved one are experiencing intense emotions and having difficulty regulating them, and if this is affecting relationships with yourself or others, seek help. Whether you are diagnosed with borderline personality disorder or another mood disorder, Eagle View Behavioral Health can provide compassionate assessment and a full continuum of treatment to set you on the path to recovery.  Our facility in Bettendorf, IA, treats adolescents and adults in inpatient and outpatient settings, providing individual and group therapy as well as recreational therapy. We work with our clients’ families as well, to help improve communication and understanding. To learn more, contact us today.  

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