Everyone has personality traits that make them who they are. These are the usual ways that a person thinks and behaves, and are what make each of us unique.
Personality traits become a personality disorder when the pattern of thinking and behaviour is extreme, inflexible and maladaptive. This causes major disruption to a person’s life and is usually associated with significant distress to the person themselves.
BPD is one of the most common personality disorders. It affects a person’s thoughts, emotions, relationships and behaviours. People with BPD:
People with BPD struggle with painful thoughts and beliefs about themselves and other people. This can cause problems in their work, family and social life.
People with BPD may engage in impulsive, self-destructive behaviours such as alcohol and other drug use, binge eating, self-harm, or even suicide attempts in an attempt to cope with their intense emotions.
Fortunately, although personality is hard to change, BPD is a very treatable condition.
BPD is the most common personality disorder in Australia. Between 1% and 4% of Australians (250,000 – 1 million) are affected by it at some stage in their lives.[i] It is more common in females than males and the symptoms usually first appear during the teenage years or early adulthood.[ii]
[ii] Health Direct, Borderline personality disorder (BPS) https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/borderline-personality-disorder-bpd
There’s no one cause of BPD. It’s not possible to predict who will develop BPD but it is believed a number of things can contribute to it, including:
While young carers are not at higher risk of developing BPD, they may experience more of the risk factors — especially around grief and loss. If the family member you care for has a mental illness, or BPD themselves, you may also have a higher risk. However, this does not mean that you will develop BPD.
The symptoms of BPD can sometimes be confused with ‘normal teenage’ behaviour because they are often experienced by young people. A diagnosis is made by a mental health professional, based on the number and severity of the symptoms that are being experienced.
There can be many different combinations of these symptoms. One person with BPD may experience different symptoms to another.
This example might help you understand these symptoms more clearly:
Darla is 17 years old and lives at home with her parents and her 12-year old sister, Cassie, who has cancer. Because Darla’s parents both work, Darla looks after her sister after school. Darla sometimes feels both sad and angry because she doesn’t think that someone so young as her sister should have to be sick.
Darla often feels very empty inside. She doesn’t know what she wants in life or who she really is. She constantly changes her mind about things and has trouble making decisions. She feels like she doesn’t fit in anywhere. Because of her caring role, Darla’s not able to hang out with the other girls after school, so feels left out. At times, Darla has told the other girls that she doesn’t think it’s fair that they leave her out all the time, and that she hates them all. Then, the next day she will apologise and try to make up, until the next thing happens that makes her feel rejected. The girls at her school avoid being around her and say they don’t want to be her friend because she’s too intense.
Darla’s temper often gets the better of her at home as well as at school and it’s quite common for her to yell at her parents and her sister. Darla is extremely stressed about her troubled friendships, as well as trying to fit in her schoolwork around caring for her sister. Some days, she also feels very panicked and anxious about leaving Cassie because she’s terrified that her sister will die or leave her while she’s at school. Sometimes, she’s so anxious that she cuts herself in the bathroom before going to school and this helps her feel calmer for a little while.
In the example above, Darla has some very normal reactions to her life:
However, Darla also shows some symptoms of BPD:
While people may experience symptoms of BPD in different ways, it’s common to feel scared and alone. If you can recognise the above symptoms, it’s important you speak to someone as there are a lot of people who can help you. You may like to speak to a teacher, support worker or a counsellor. You should also talk to your doctor to find out what’s going on.
The sooner you get help, the sooner you’ll feel better. Treatment to help you feel better usually involves speaking to a mental health professional. In some cases, prescribed medication may be required, although medication is not usually the first treatment for BPD. There are effective group-based treatment programs for BPD that can also support family members.
Other things you can do include:
BPD is a serious condition that can have a big impact on your life, so it’s important that you seek help by speaking to your doctor. Seeking help early is important so that you can learn skills to better manage your emotions and relationships.
You can also call:
Kids Help Line — 1800 55 1800
Headspace — 1800 650 890
Lifeline — 13 11 14. You can also ask for help via text message on 0477 13 11 14
You can find more information about BPD at:
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