Friday, August 20, 2010

Friday Five: Facts About Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)

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- Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is a serious mental illness characterized by pervasive instability in moods, interpersonal relationships, self-image and behavior. This instability often disrupts family and work life, long-term planning and the individual's sense of self-identity.

- While less well known than schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, BPD is more common, affecting two percent of adults, mostly young women. Patients often need extensive mental health services and account for 20 percent of psychiatric hospitalizations. Yet, with help, many improve over time and are eventually able to lead productive lives.

- While a person with depression or bipolar disorder typically endures the same mood for weeks, a person with BPD may experience intense bouts of anger, depression and anxiety that may last only hours, or at most a day.  These may be associated with episodes of impulsive aggression, self-injury and drug or alcohol abuse.

- People with BPD often have highly unstable patterns of social relationships. While they can develop intense but stormy attachments, their attitudes towards family, friends and loved ones may suddenly shift from idealization (great admiration and love) to devaluation (intense anger and dislike). Thus, they may form an immediate attachment and idealize the other person, but when a slight separation or conflict occurs, they switch unexpectedly to the other extreme and angrily accuse the other person of not caring for them at all.

- Treatments for BPD have improved in recent years. Group and individual psychotherapy are at least partially effective for many patients. Within the past 15 years, a new psychosocial treatment termed dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) was developed specifically to treat BPD, and this technique has looked promising in treatment studies.

(This week's Friday Five facts are taken from the National Institute of Mental Health's Borderline Personality Disorder fact sheet. For more information about BPD and other mental illnesses, visit the NAMI Southwestern Pennsylvania website.)

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