West Hartford, CT Borderline Personality Disorder Support
At The Harmony Center for Change, we believe that diagnosis does not define our clients. Instead, a diagnosis should empower individuals to better understand their needs and leverage their unique strengths to achieve any goal. Many people who have been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD) feel helpless and hopeless. Afterall, Instability is at the very core of the struggle with BPD. Your own emotions, thoughts, and behaviors just don’t seem like they’re yours to control. Instead, they start to control you. Let’s hit the pause button, take a breath, and start understanding how a BPD diagnosis can be the beginning of your journey to leading a healthier life. In fact, a study of individuals diagnosed with BPD who were actively engaged in treatment programs showed that 50% of no longer met the criteria for diagnosis after two years and 80% no longer met the diagnosis after ten years. What that tells me is that a BPD diagnosis is your starting line for a race you are going to win, so let’s get started.
What is Borderline Personality Disorder?
BPD, like many cognitive and behavioral health concerns, can be difficult to pinpoint because so many of the traits that characterize BPD are entirely healthy in the right context. People who are diagnosed with BPD are often highly driven to be successful. They can be very empathetic with others, and they understand the need to communicate their feelings. What makes BPD a disorder is the way that people with this diagnosis struggle to find stability. Many people with a BPD diagnosis describe their experience as feeling constantly like their nerves are exposed. The smallest things can lead to dramatic shifts in emotional state. They are sensitive and can struggle to develop healthy coping mechanisms or learn to self-soothe when their emotional responses are triggered. What many individuals diagnosed with BPD find even more difficult is the way their own self-image seems to constantly change, even their likes and dislikes seem to be constantly fluctuating. This lack of stability can be extremely destructive, making it difficult for those with BPD to maintain healthy relationships, hold down a job, or be successful in other areas of life.
Is Borderline Personality Disorder Different Than Bipolar Depression?
Bipolar depression (also referred to as manic depression and bipolar disorder) is a condition that has many similarities with BPD, which can lead to misdiagnosis. Both conditions are characterized by intense emotional responses, drastic mood shifts, and impulsivity, but these are actually two very different conditions. Bipolar depression is considered a mood disorder. People diagnosed with mood disorders can sometimes struggle to understand and control their emotions, and this can lead to problematic thoughts and behaviors. Mood disorders lead to swiftly fluctuating emotional states. Most commonly, people with bipolar depression fluctuate between depressed and elevated emotional states. These moods can last for days, weeks, or months.
BPD is a personality disorder. Unlike mood disorders, personality disorders impact an individual’s thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. Rather than shifts in emotional state, BPD actually leads to shifts in self-image that can stem from a big emotion, negative thinking, or impulsive behavior. Individuals with BPD can find themselves struggling to feel stable in any of these aspects of their personalities.
Another difference between BPD and bipolar depression is what triggers the shifts in mood or behavior. In BPD, shifts in mood or behavior often occur as a result of an external trigger as the individual responds to their situation. Mood changes in bipolar depression usually start from within.
How is Borderline Personality Disorder Diagnosed?
Many people with BPD are undiagnosed or misdiagnosed for years, but we actually have a great assessment tool. Those diagnosed with BPD will meet five or more of the following criteria:
- Fear of abandonment (real or imagined)
- Unstable or intense relationships
- Unstable sense of self
- Impulsivity (overspending, sexual promiscuity, substance abuse, reckless driving, binge eating, etc.)
- Suicidal or self-harming behaviors
- Emotional instability
- Feelings of emptiness
- Difficulty controlling anger
- Paranoia or dissociative states
How does Counseling Help Borderline Personality Disorder?
Many people with BPD feel frustrated or like there is no hope, but in recent years, treatment prognosis for BPD has actually improved dramatically. Most people with BPD can and do get better thanks to new treatment approaches that are specifically geared toward understanding and improving life for those diagnosed with BPD. It can be difficult and uncomfortable for those with BPD to start breaking the habits of thinking, feeling, and acting, but the results are worth the effort. In most cases, we recommend that those diagnosed with BPD engage in both individual counseling and group DBT sessions. This combination can help those with BPD to develop the skills they need to tackle the difficulties of this condition and maximize their inner strengths to lead their best and most fulfilling lives.
While some diagnoses respond well to medications, this is not necessarily an important part of most BPD treatment plans. I like to tell my clients that there are no medications that “cure” big emotions. Instead, counseling, group sessions, and homework retrains your body and mind to process these big emotions in healthier ways.
What if My Loved One Has a Borderline Personality Disorder Diagnosis?
Friends and family members can often be impacted by the actions of individuals with a BPD diagnosis. While your loved one is working hard to make healthy changes, you can support them by developing awareness about the impact of your interactions with them. For instance, it’s natural to want to know how your loved one is doing, but to someone with BPD, your curiosity can translate to interrogation. Instead of asking a bunch of questions or trying to help them complete their goal, think about how you can better represent your curiosity without potentially triggering your loved one. The simplest thing may be simply asking your loved one how you can best support them. You may also want to consider talking to a counselor yourself, especially if you’re struggling to connect with and support your loved one with BPD.
What do I do Next?
If you’ve already been diagnosed with BPD, we’re here to help. When you’re ready to start making some changes, don’t wait to contact us. To set up your first visit to The Harmony Center for Change, you can call, email, or use our simple request form. We know it can be intimidating to take the first steps to make a change, but you don’t have to do it alone.