Understanding the Link Between Borderline Personality Disorder and Suicide
| 4 min read
Dr. Kristyn Gregory, D.O., is a medical director of behavioral health at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. Dr. Gregory received her medical degree from the Chicago School of Osteopathic Medicine. She then completed residency training in Adult Psychiatry at Henry Ford, and a fellowship in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Wayne State University. She is board-certified in Adult, Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. She has practiced in a variety of settings in the metro Detroit area including inpatient, residential, outpatient, school-based and juvenile justice programs.
Borderline Personality Disorder Explained
- Mood Patterns: People with BPD experience intense mood swings that result in uncertainty about the world around them. Because of this, their interests and outlook can rapidly change. People with borderline personality disorder also tend to view things in extremes, such as all good or all bad. Their opinions of other people can also change quickly.
- An individual who is seen as a friend one day may be considered an enemy or traitor the next. These shifting feelings can lead to intense and unstable relationships. Fear of real or imagined abandonment and a pattern of intense and unstable relationships, and impulsive, dangerous behaviors such as substance use, reckless driving and self-harm are additional symptoms.
- Occurrence: Like many personality disorders, it is often challenging to track statistics related to BPD as the condition can be misdiagnosed, underdiagnosed or individuals never seek treatment. However, it is estimated that 4% of people in the United States are living with the illness. While this number may seem small, it equates to approximately 3 million people living with the illness. Women are also disproportionately affected, making up approximately 75% of diagnoses.
- Onset: Symptoms of BPD usually begin to appear in early adulthood and may decrease later in life as people in their 30s and 40s find stability.
- Risk Factors: While there are currently no specific causes linked directly to borderline personality disorder, research suggests that social, environmental and genetic factors such as family history, a traumatic childhood and brain abnormalities may increase a person’s risk.
Borderline Personality Disorder vs. Bipolar Disorder
- Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder that primarily affects a person’s emotional state altering thoughts, motivation and overall functionality in cycles that can last for days to months. It is more common than BPD and affects an estimated 8% of Americans.
- BPD is a personality disorder that primarily affects a person’s inner experience and relationships causing individuals to think and act differently.
- When diagnosing BPD and bipolar disorder, professionals can distinguish between the two illnesses by asking questions that relate to sleep, cycling mood time, relationships, mania and self-harm.
Higher Risk of Suicide Linked to BPD
Seeking Help Leads to Better Outcomes
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help people with borderline personality disorder identify and change core beliefs and behaviors that contribute to inaccurate perceptions of themselves and others, as well as social difficulties.
- Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), which was developed for individuals with borderline personality disorder, uses concepts of mindfulness and acceptance or being aware of and attentive to the current situation and emotional state. It also teaches skills to control intense emotions, reduce self-destructive behaviors and improve relationships.
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