A personality disorder is defined as an “inner experience” (that is, our personal interpretation and understanding of things that happen, as well as our own thoughts and feelings) that deviates significantly from expectations of our culture (DSM-5). There are a number of types of personality disorders, showing different patterns of that inner experience. One such type is Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). BPD may be diagnosed when a person shows instability in four key areas:
Receiving a diagnosis of BPD can be a source of anxiety in itself as there is not as much awareness of the condition as other psychological diagnoses such as anxiety or depression. On one hand, there may be some relief in knowing that the intense symptoms someone is feeling has a name, but it also elicits questions about treatment and whether they will ever feel “normal”.
Medication VS. Therapy
While there is no medication to specifically address BPD, prescriptions may be made for specific symptoms such as mood reactivity or anxiety. Therapy is considered particularly important for individuals with BPD. One specific type of therapy that has garnered significant attention for its effective treatment of BPD is known as Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). Generally, BPD symptom severity and risk of suicide are greatest in young adulthood, and then often diminish with age, particularly with therapeutic intervention.
Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)
The word “dialectic” means looking at opposing ideas in order to find the truth. In the case of DBT, this type of therapy aims at broadening our perspectives and developing skills to both accept and regulate our emotions. DBT also places value on developing skills for having healthy relationships.
DBT is practiced in both individual therapy and in group sessions. Group sessions follow a particular structure of training skills from four different modules:
If DBT is started in a structured setting, clients often then continue with individual therapy afterward to continue the skill development and receive effective support.
By Kristi MacDonald
American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Washington, DC: Author.
Linehan, M. M., & Wilks, C. R. (2015). The Course and Evolution of Dialectical Behavior Therapy. American Journal of Psychotherapy, 69(2), 97-110.
Palmer, R. L. (2002). Dialectical behaviour therapy for borderline personality disorder. Advances in Psychiatric Treatment, 8(1), 10-16. doi:10.1192/apt.8.1.10