Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a serious mental illness characterized by unstable or irritable behaviors and moods and unhealthy relationships. Teenagers with BPD may encounter self-image issues, self-doubt, fear of abandonment, low self-worth, and trouble controlling their emotions.
Teens with BPD are also at high risk for co-occurring disorders such as substance use disorders, depression, anxiety disorders, and eating disorders.
What causes this complex mental illness? Read on to learn about the causes, risk factors, complications, diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis of BPD in teens.
Causes And Risk Factors For Borderline Personality Disorder In Teens
- Genetic factors: Although there is no concrete evidence that proves that a specific gene causes BPD, preliminary research done on twins suggests that the genes inherited from parents may make a child more vulnerable to developing BPD.
- Neurological factors: Studies have shown that teens suffering from BPD have abnormities and damages in the structure of the brain area that regulates emotions and impulses.
- Traumatic history: Most teenagers with BPD have a history of some form of major trauma. Usually, when children face physical or sexual abuse or experience trauma in the form of abandonment or adversities in their childhood, they tend to develop symptoms of BPD as they enter their teens.
Symptoms Of Borderline Personality Disorder In Teens
The following are some signs and symptoms encapsulated in the Diagnostic And Statistical Manual Of Mental Disorders (DSM IV). If your teen experiences at least five of the symptoms given below, it could indicate BPD.
- Feelings of emptiness or boredom
- Inability to comprehend an unusual feeling of void
- Intense fear of being abandoned
- Impulsive and dangerous behaviors such as harsh driving, extravagant spending, binge drinking, and substance abuse
- Self-harming behavior, such as cutting, burning, or punching themselves
- Suicidal tendencies
- Going through intense mood swings and displaying highly emotional and dramatic behavior
- Low self-worth and low self-esteem at a level that even the smallest challenges that come their way overwhelm them
- Severe temper tantrums and uncontrollable anger issues.
Complications Of BPD
- Inefficiency towards education
- Getting involved in illegal matters
- Stressful relationships
- Indulging in self-harm
- Getting into unnecessary fights due to impulsive behavior
- Getting involved in accidents
- Suicidal thoughts and attempts
- Substance abuse
- Eating disorders
Besides these complications, teens may also have other mental disorders such as depression, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other personality disorders.
Diagnosis Of Borderline Personality Disorder
The diagnosis of BPD can be challenging as the symptoms may be similar to those of other mood disorders. However, a psychologist or psychiatrist can help you with the diagnosis based on the following.
- A detailed one-on-one session where the doctor is given the opportunity to interview the child
- An in-depth psychological evaluation through questionnaires
- An evaluation of the child’s medical history followed by an examination
Treatment For Borderline Personality Disorder In Teens
Although there is no definitive cure for BPD, it is treatable. These treatment methods could help reduce the severity of the symptoms of BPD in teens.
Different types of psychotherapy, including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), may be effective in treating teenagers going through BPD.
- CBT: Cognitive behavioral therapy can help a child understand the need to recognize and change their pessimistic thoughts that add to the symptoms of BPD. CBT treatment usually involves strategies that include
- Recognizing one’s thinking process and identifying the thoughts that cause problems.
- Making an effort to gain a deeper understanding of others.
- Coping with difficult situations with the use of effective problem-solving skills.
- Learning how to appreciate themselves and believe in their abilities.
- DBT: Dialectical behavioral therapy helps children find new ways of coping with distress and unpleasant emotions. It is a comprehensive treatment that can help the child manage self-destructive behavior, regulate their emotions, and improve relationships and self-esteem.
A few medications may help treat specific symptoms such as mood swings and depression.
- Second-generation antipsychotics come in handy while managing suicide risk.
- Anti-anxiety medications are prescribed on a short-term basis to manage some symptoms such as intense anxiety and agitation associated with BPD.
In the case of severe symptoms, the child may require hospitalization to prevent them from causing self-injury.
Is Bipolar Disorder Preventable?
Since there is no definite cause of BPD, a structured formula to prevent the mental condition does not exist. Some of the steps that you can follow to help your child include validating their emotions, organizing a stable routine, being available for your child, promoting positive behavior, giving them the support they need, and being patient.
Since there is no one way to prevent BPD, early detection of co-occurring mental illnesses, such as depression, may help diagnose BPD at the earliest possible stage. This may be of immense help in changing the course of the disorder.
Prognosis Of BPD In Teenagers
Based on a review published in The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, the remission rate of BPD in teenagers varies from 50% to 65%. With proper care and treatment, most teenagers with BPD can learn to manage their symptoms.
Teens with BPD generally respond to treatments such as therapy and medication, and early diagnosis of the condition is key to improving the child’s quality of life. With the assistance of highly trained professionals, the symptoms of BPD in teens can be managed and brought under control.
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