Borderline Personality Disorder

Borderline personality disorder is a mental illness that few people are familiar with. However, recent research into the disorder is helping people to become more aware of the illness and its symptoms.

What is Borderline Personality Disorder?
Borderline personality disorder affects an astoundingly large number of people in the United States. About 2% of the population is known to suffer from the disorder, but the number is probably higher, perhaps even as high as 10%. Borderline personality disorder causes extremes in behavior, feelings of depression and panic, and can lead to social problem or even suicide.

Borderline personality disorder is a psychological syndrome that drastically affects the way a person thinks, feels, and acts. The disorder primarily leaves its sufferers unable to define and understand who they really are. This profound struggle for identity leaves sufferers feeling vulnerable, depressed, and alone. As a result, many people with borderline personality disorder are unable to regulate their emotions, understand their thoughts, or control their behaviors.

Borderline personality disorder can affect both women and men, though 3 times more women are diagnosed with the illness. The disorder usually begins at a young age, typically in the late teens or early twenties and is generally a lofelong problem. If treatment is not sought early on, a person with borderline personality disorder may begin to exhibit more and more extreme behaviors, including deliberate self-harm such as cutting or burning ones self. 3% of all people with the illness commit suicide.

What Causes Borderline Personality Disorder?
No one is completely sure what causes this psychological disorder. There is probably no one cause, but rather a variety of factors that contribute to its onset. What is apparent is that a large number of people with the illness have experienced particularly traumatic events or have lived in unstable environments. These environmental factors, along with genetic components, are probably what cause borderline personality disorder.

Between 40% and 70% of those with borderline personality disorder have been exposed to environmental factors that may have contributed to their illness. Many experience physical and sexual abuse as children; even more have been victims of rape and other crimes. But it is hard to measure how these environments may actually have caused the onset of the illness.

Most people with borderline personality disorder have a biological defect in the way they regulate mood and emotion. The amygdala, a device in the brain, helps us to regulate our negative emotions. People with borderline personality disorder have amygdalas that do not function properly. In these cases it is thought that a front portion of the brain may be dampening the effect of the amygdala, causing severe mood swings and abnormal behavior.

Symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder
There are numerous borderline personality disorder symptoms. Two of the main symptoms are an inability to define ones self and difficulty maintaining close relationships. If you ask a person who is affected by the disorder to describe themselves, they will be unable to do so. Many report feeling "empty" inside and the majority of sufferers will conform to those around them because they simply don't know "who" to be. This lack of self-knowledge is what causes many of the other symptoms of the disorder.

Someone with borderline personality disorder is likely to display a number of the following symptoms:

  • instable moods or sudden, severe mood swings
  • "splitting," during which the sufferer suddenly changes opinions about another person (i.e. they will go from great love and adoration for a person to extreme hatred for that person)
  • extreme behaviors, including binge eating, excessive spending, or risky sexual relations
  • frequent changes in employment, sexual orientation, or life goals
  • self destructive behavior designed to elicit attention
  • may be manipulative and untrusting
  • abnormal or inappropriate behavior in public
  • extreme fear of abandonment or being left alone
  • appears to get "lost" in moods( i.e. can't remember what it's like to feel happy when they are feeling sad)

If you think you have borderline personality disorder or may know someone who does, consult with your health care provider as treatment is available.

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