What is Borderline Personality Disorder & Ways to Manage It: BPD Awareness Month 2021
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Did you know that May is Borderline Personality Disorder Awareness Month?
As someone on this spectrum with Emotional Intensity Disorder (EID), I wanted to talk about it.
Statistics from Rethink state that 1 in 100 people live with the condition.
It can affect men and women equally, but more women have the official diagnosis.
According to various research, individuals with BPD are more likely to commit suicide than those with other mental health condition.
There’s a nasty stigma around this particular mental health condition, not helped by the name it’s been given.
In 1938 the condition was first called ‘borderline schizophrenia’ in America.
Otto Kenberg then researched it further and claimed it was on the borderline between neurosis and psychosis.
This is where the term Borderline Personality Disorder began and was then used from 1980 by the medical world.
I dislike the name because it implies there’s something wrong with your personality, which is the core of all humans.
Personality and having a brain rewired by trauma are two different things, so the name is hugely misleading.
Thankfully parts of the NHS have been amending the name to things like EID and Emotional Unstable Personality Disorder (EUPD).
According to Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS around 1 in 100 people live with BPD.
BPD is not to be mixed up with Bipolar Disorder which can also be shortened to BPD.
Borderline Personality Disorder is a condition that comes from experiencing high levels of trauma- you’re NOT born with it.
Just like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, trauma causes the brain to be conditioned to respond to triggers in a challenging way.
With BPD you can be easily triggered by things you didn’t used to, which can be hard for yourself and family to live with.
What Does BPD / EUPD Look Like?
It’s a type of personality disorder where you have difficulties with how you see yourself and others, which affects your daily life.
The disorder can affect how you cope with many areas in your life;- From maintaining stable relationships with others, dealing with conflict and even simple daily tasks and responsibilities.
Emotions can be confusing, exhausting and very difficult to control. This can cause a lot of stress and strain on the person and those around them.
Due to the condition being so distressing, other mental health conditions can develop. For some this can lead to problematic coping mechanisms such as substance misuse, self harm and under/over eating.
According to MIND, BPD’s usually diagnosed if you’ve experienced at least 5 of the following, which impact upon your daily life:
- Fear of being abandoned, and you may do anything to stop this from happening
- Very intense emotions that can last hours to days and then change incredibly quickly
- Your sense of self changes often, depending who you’re with, so you lack a sense of who you really are
- Difficulties in maintaining relationships, whether it’s partners, family, friends or colleagues
- Feeling empty most of the time
- Acting impulsively and doing things that may cause you harm- drugs, casual sex, dangerous driving, binge eating etc
- Self-harming regularly or having suicidal feelings often
- Intense feelings of anger which are hard to control
- Experiencing disassociation or paranoia when stressed
Due to only needing to meet five of the above, each person with BPD can look very different to another.
Despite this, there’s many stigmas, assumptions and stereotypes about this condition, which can include the following…
It’s NOT Bipolar.
These are two very different conditions, yet both can be shortened to ‘BPD’.
BPD/EUPD is often misdiagnosed with other conditions, such as substance abuse, anxiety, PTSD and depression.
Some believe the condition isn’t real, and I’ve heard of experienced clinicians refusing to work with BPD clients due to this.
It can be assumed you’re born with it, but it actually begins in early adulthood.
Research suggests there’s a genetic predisposition to it, but the condition is triggered by experiencing trauma.
So it could be a genetic trait that many have, but it doesn’t show itself unless you experience trauma.
It’s thought environmental factors such as childhood abuse and neglect can trigger it, and brain chemicals/development also play a part.
Being promiscuous is another well-known misconception.
Self-sabotage is a huge factor of the condition, which can look like many things to different people. This could be over/under eating, self-harm and putting yourself into dangerous situations.
Nobody fits into all symptoms of any condition.
Managing the Condition
Day to day life with this condition can be difficult for the person and those closest to them.
As well as the usual medication, there’s many things that can help manage this complex illness.
Being out in nature and keeping active can produce the good chemicals in the brain that can reduce some symptoms.
Having an active, structured daily routine can help the person feel they have a purpose and things to achieve.
Eating a nutritionally balanced and healthy diet can do wonders for the brain as well as body too.
Breathing exercises are helpful when you may be triggered or want to reduce the risk of an ‘episode’.
Using breathing techniques regularly is a great way to check in with yourself, so increases self awareness. This makes it more likely for you to spot a trigger before allowing it to take hold.
Some with BPD can fill all of their free time keeping busy to distract from their thoughts.
We need to process feelings or else we risk going into a depressive episode, or worse, a breakdown.
Trying to find even 30 minutes a day to just relax, whether it’s meditation, reading a book or sitting with a blanket and scented candle can benefit so much.
Making sure you have time to just be is vital.
Similar to above, self care can be things like using scented candles, crystals, incense and having time to pamper yourself.
I’ve recently been getting products from The House of Eden– if you follow me on Instagram you will have seen the candles, clothes and incense already!
These little treats for myself have been lovely, and I want to keep this up because I matter too.
The owner of this lovely online shop is passionate about mental health too, so has given me a 20% discount on all products for you guys with no expiry date!
Simply enter SPP20 at the checkout.
Self care isn’t just pampering.
It can be attending regular therapy, or putting important routines and boundaries in place.
This also includes taking time to sit with feelings, and can even be a painful thing to do.
This can be a great way to understand where we are at emotionally each day, and can help train the brain to be more self aware.
It can also help to identify regular triggers which you might then be able to avoid.
There’s various journals out there, including those to teach gratitude, self-compassion and self-awareness.
If you want support to find out if you have this condition, going to the GP is the first thing to do.
Making recordings of your symptoms to take to the GP is helpful, so they can see what your daily life is like.
Recordings could include any behaviours you’ve noticed that concern you, what your relationship is like with loved one and the common feelings you experience.
Rethink have some great advice on the various steps you can take and the referrals that can be made for help too.
Dialectical Behaviour Therapy
This is great for BPD, as it helps you accept your emotions are real and acceptable.
It also helps the person challenge how they respond to their emotions.
There are groups and individual sessions you can attend, but also independent work at home if you preferred.
I’m currently using The Dialectical Behaviour Therapy Skills Workbook at home.
This stands for Systems Training for Emotional Predictability and Problem Solving.
It was developed to treat BPD and Emotional Intensity Disorder.
The goal is to help the person gain skills in managing their triggers, actions and feelings to minimise BPD episodes.
The NHS does run this programme in many places, and I completed it in 2019 and found it very helpful.
The methods used combines DBT (see above) and CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) and consists of group workshops and homework to complete for 14 weeks.
Therapeutically, Mentalization-Based Therapy can help this condition.
It focuses on looking at your thoughts and feelings and working out how helpful and realistic they are.
This therapy often takes place whilst the person is staying in hospital and can last around 18 months.
Therapies such as art, drama, music and movement therapies can help with BPD symptoms.
These are particularly great for people who find it difficult to verbalise their thoughts and feelings.
This is more for informal, social support.
Accessing groups through well-known mental health services such as the NHS, MIND and Rethink ensures you will be part of faciltated, safe spaces.
These can be great if you want to meet people with similar experiences and conditions as you, and these groups can offer the emotional support and empathy that friends and family may struggle to give.
Sometimes help can be more manageable when it’s done at home using self-help books.
I have found many books useful with regards to learning about BPD, as well as learning how to manage it and have saved them all on Amazon here.
I’ve even found a great book (Family Guide to BPD) for friends and family to read which helps them to understand me more, and they don’t take it as personally now that they understand why I act the way I do.
No payment has been received for this post. All opinions are honest and my own, and any research quoted is referenced via a link.
This post contains affiliate links to Amazon, meaning I might get a small commission if you purchased through them.