Recognizing Borderline Personality Disorder and Seeking Treatment


The good news is that treatment is available. The most efficacious treatment is a form of therapy called dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), which focuses on teaching an individual the skills to manage, tolerate and decrease their intense emotional reactions. It helps to decrease self-harming behaviors and improve relationships. At its core, DBT works to help an individual both accept herself as she is and also facilitate change. While other forms of therapy may also be of benefit, DBT has been shown to have the most compelling evidence as an effective form of therapy for this disorder.  

Often, there is a desire to turn to medications to try to help manage the intense feelings that come along with borderline personality disorder. But medications do not help get at the core components of the illness and generally tend not to be particularly helpful. That said, it is important to have a thorough assessment by a mental health provider, as individuals with borderline personality disorder can certainly suffer from other mental illnesses that are amenable to pharmacological treatment, like depression and anxiety.

While we used to consider borderline personality disorder to be a diagnosis that lasted a lifetime, we now know that symptoms can wax and wane and go into remission, just like with other illnesses.  Over the course of a decade, about 85 percent of individuals with borderline personality disorder will go into remission even without treatment. But certain aspects tend to be less likely to change, like difficulties with relationships, thus emphasizing the importance of therapy to work on these and other aspects of this disorder.

By recognizing you may be dealing with a personality disorder, you have taken the first step in making a change in your life. I would strongly encourage you to seek treatment to help you move your life in the direction you want.



Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition. Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Association; 2013.

Gunderson JG, Stout RL, McGlashan TH, et al. Ten-year course of borderline personality disorder: psychopathology and function from the Collaborative Longitudinal Personality Disorders study. Archives of general psychiatry. Aug 2011;68(8):827-837.

Riddle M, Meeks T, Alvarez C, Dubovsky A. When personality is the problem: Managing patients with difficult personalities on the acute care unit. Journal of hospital medicine. Sep 9 2016.

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  • Jessica September 20, 2016 at 9:33 pm

    20 year-old with BPD here. Just wanted to give my personal input in the hopes that it’ll help at least one person. I was in cognitive behavioral therapy when I was diagnosed, and it was recommended to me to attend DBT. Haven’t done that part yet, but I found some small things that you can do on your own to help along with assistance from a professional. I’d highly recommend anyone with or living with someone who has BPD to read “The Borderline Personality Survival Guide” by Chapman and Gratz. It’s very informative and delves into how BPD comes about and what to expect with it, and also offers various forms of treatment. I also keep many journals around me for when I’m in a grey state of mind; I have one for myself to talk about why I’m upset, another to write something good that has happened to me every day and something I’m grateful for, and yet another one to write in to share with others. This last one is particularly important for me because it’s physically and emotionally difficult for me to communicate once I’ve hit a certain level. When this happens (usually as snot is running down my face, it’s quite a beautiful image) and I need my significant other to do something specific for me to help me, I’ll grab this journal and tell him in writing what I want or what I feel. Sometimes that writing allows me to distance myself a little bit from all of the crazy emotions I’m feeling, and I’m still (usually) able to get the help I need. Also, physical exercise has helped with my stress levels so much. I try to either run, dance, or do some other exercise every day (this sometimes doesn’t happen because college and job and social life). And lastly, I have a secret code language with the few people who know about my illness where I can let them know discreetly if I’m feeling overwhelmed by something, or just need them to remind me that they love me. Of course, this is just what I’ve found works. I hope this’ll help at least a little!

  • Al September 19, 2016 at 6:00 pm

    We’ve been married nearly 55 years and I’m uncertain as to where to go / what to do with my beloved’s emotional erratic outbursts that run from threats ti rage and everything in between. She has refused medical help &/or medication, but the condition is becoming nearly unbearable for our entire family and extended family, friends and associates.

    Should I drag her to a clinic / treatment – analysis center or what. Promises to change / go, soon evaporate till the next implosion etc.

    I love my wife and want to do what is right for her and our family.