Skip to content

Borderline Personality Disorder

The primary personality disorder that co-occurrs with chronic stress related conditions such as eating disorders is borderline personality disorder. The main feature of borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a pervasive pattern of instability in interpersonal relationships, self-image and emotions. People with borderline personality disorder are also usually very impulsive. Clients struggle to release feelings of self-hatred and anger. When treatment is attempted, clients often push friends and family away as well as treatment professionals.

Borderline personality disorder is difficult to treat. Personality disorders, by definition, are long-standing ways of coping with the world, social and personal relationships, handling stress and emotions that often do not work, especially when a person is under increased stress or performance demands in their lives.

Residents with BPD have special needs. Our staff has an exceptional understanding of personality disorders and other psychiatric disorders. This disorder occurs in most women and girls by early adulthood. The unstable pattern of interacting with others has persisted for years and is usually closely related to the person's self-image and early social interactions. A person's feelings are likely to fluctuate back and forth rapidly.

A person with this disorder will also often exhibit impulsive behaviors and have a majority of the following symptoms:

  • Frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment
  • A pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships characterized by alternating between extremes of idealization and intense dislike
  • Identity disturbance, such as a significant and persistent unstable self-image or sense of self
  • Engages in activities that are potentially self-harming (eating disorders, substance abuse, reckless driving, sex, spending)
  • Recurrent suicidal behavior, gestures, or threats, or self-harming behavior
  • Emotional instability due to significant reactivity of mood such as feeling exuberant emotionally, feeling irritable, or feeling extreme anxiety that usually lasts a few hours and only rarely more than a few days)
  • Chronic feelings of emptiness
  • Inappropriate, intense anger or difficulty controlling anger (e.g., frequent displays of temper, constant anger, even recurrent physical fights)
  • Stress-related paranoid thoughts or severe dissociative symptoms

As with all personality disorders, the person must be at least 18 years old before they can be diagnosed with it.

Treatment at Mirasol is dramatically different than any other treatment center in the country. Most treatment programs I've encountered are what I call boot-camp style treatment programs. They are programs that try to have all clients do the same things, trying to fit square pegs into round holes. This kind of treatment simply doesn't work. It's not nurturing or respectful.

Everyone at Mirasol is treated with dignity and respect. Everyone is treated as an individual. Nowhere is this more important than when treating borderline personality disorder. People with this disorder often try and "test the limits" of their therapists and treatment team. Clients may display behavior which is deemed "inappropriate." At a boot-camp style treatment center, the clients frequently are told that they're not being "compliant" and are acting inappropriately. They are then threatened with dismissal if they break any of the rules. These are people that need understanding, empathy, and compassion.

Individuals with borderline personality disorder are often unfairly discriminated against within the broad range of mental health professionals because they are seen as "trouble-makers." Any kind of discrimination against an individual with borderline personality disorder is simply never permitted at Mirasol. Each and every client is treated in a nurturing and respectful manner.

How is Borderline Personality Disorder Diagnosed?

Personality disorders such as borderline personality disorder are typically diagnosed by a trained mental health professional, such as a psychologist or psychiatrist. Family physicians and general practitioners are generally not trained or well-equipped to make this type of psychological diagnosis.

A diagnosis for borderline personality disorder is made by a mental health professional which at Mirasol is our psychiatrist. They will very carefully make a determination whether clients' symptoms meet the criteria necessary for a personality disorder diagnosis.

Treatment Planning for Borderline Personality Disorder Residents with Co-Occurring Conditions

A long history of borderline personality disorder may make a person susceptible to other behavior patterns such as substance abuse and eating disorders. Mirasol's therapists have extensive experience in treating personality disorders as well as a team of people who are pros at treating co-occurring disorders.

At Mirasol treatment plans for those with borderline personality disorders consider all data received about the resident. We gather together our entire treatment team that has psychiatric expertise to customize their care. The complete team approach to customizing treatment including input from the client herself is one of the factors that spotlights the cutting-edge treatment of eating disorders and co-occurring disorders at a world-class treatment center such as Mirasol.

Treatment of Borderline Personality Disorder

Treatment of borderline personality disorder typically involves long-term psychotherapy with a therapist that has experience in treating this kind of personality disorder. At Mirasol we are able to accelerate recovery by utilizing dialectical behavioral therapy (as developed by Dr. Marsha Linehan) and our integrative holistic treatment protocols. DBT is a form of integrative treatment combining behavioral and cognitive therapies in individual and group sessions. Medications may be used to help stabilize mood swings and to help with specific troubling and debilitating symptoms. Controversy surrounds overmedicating people with this disorder. At Mirasol we are very sensitive to overmedicating clients and medications are administered cautiously.

FREE Eating Disorder Support Group!

FREE weekly eating disorder support group for adults struggling with food issues, staffed by therapists from Mirasol Eating Disorder Recovery Centers. Thursdays from 5:30-6:45 pm at 3116 N Swan in Tucson. For more information, call 520-546-3200 or email Ann at support@mirasol.net.

"Mirasol is light years ahead of any other program in the country."