Getting Help for Poor Emotional Regulation

The ability to regulate emotions is an important part of everyday life. When this ability is impaired, you can easily find yourself caught in damaging, negative cycles of thought and behavior. This is what happens to people affected by borderline personality disorder, or BPD. BPD seriously disrupts your ability to regulate your emotions. In so doing, it leads to significant problems with your self-control and sense of well-being.

At one time, doctors did not have a lot of options for treating BPD. However, today, that situation has changed. Most people with the disorder respond well to modern treatment options. With the help of professional care, it is possible to reduce your symptoms and lead a satisfying life.

What Is Borderline Personality Disorder

Within a society, most people think, feel and behave in similar ways. This does not mean that everyone is the same. In fact, there is plenty of natural variation from person to person. Still, as a rule, there is a general healthy range for the central aspects of your personality. 

Personality disorders are a group of mental health conditions that change the way you think, feel and behave. Unfortunately, these changes are dysfunctional. They lead to serious alterations of such things as:

  • How you respond to your emotions
  • Your self-image and view of other people
  • The way you behave from day to day
  • How your interact with others

BPD is one of ten personality disorders. It gets its name because it was once thought to exist on the borderline of certain other similar conditions. Today, it is recognized as its own distinct illness. The main feature of borderline personality disorder is diminished emotional control or regulation. 

Instead of flowing smoothly between emotional states, people with BPD tend to experience strong emotional shifts. You also tend to get “stuck” in your most recent emotion. This emotion often takes an intense or extreme form. 

The symptoms of BPD lead to certain characteristic personal problems. Examples of those problems include:

  • Poor control over your impulses
  • Extreme reactions to stress
  • A negative self-image
  • Unstable or chaotic relationships with others

In the U.S., borderline personality disorder affects about 1.4 percent of all adults. Researchers once believed that women are affected far more often than men. However, many men with the condition may simply be misdiagnosed with other illnesses.

Types of Borderline Personality Disorder

Officially, there are not multiple types of BPD. However, not everyone with the disorder experiences the same kinds of symptoms. For this reason, any two cases of the illness may be quite different in certain respects. 

Signs and Symptoms of BPD

Signs and Symptoms of BPD

There are several core symptoms of BPD. Perhaps the single most significant issue is serious mood swings. These intense shifts in your emotions can leave you feeling uncentered or unanchored. This means that your opinions of yourself may change rapidly. It also means that you may experience rapid shifts in the things you value or believe in. In addition, extreme and shifting views of other people are common. 

The length of your mood fluctuations will not always be the same. A given mood may only affect you for hours at a time. However, it may be days before the next shift occurs. 

The fluctuating emotions of BPD can leave you with a profound sense of insecurity. Often this insecurity has a wider effect. In particular, combined with other aspects of the illness, it typically makes it difficult for you to form lasting bonds. 

Other symptoms that may affect you if you have BPD include:

  • Avoidance of any situation that might leave you feeling abandoned
  • A tendency toward reckless, impulsive actions
  • Lack of a coherent self-image
  • A persistent sense of emptiness
  • Problems trusting others
  • Difficulty controlling your temper
  • Bouts of extreme, misplaced anger
  • A sense of being detached from yourself or reality

Cutting and other self-harming behaviors are also common in people with the illness. The same is true for suicidal thinking and threats to kill yourself. Actual suicide attempts are not rare. The suicide fatality rate for BPD may be as high as 1 in every 10 cases of the disorder.

BPD Causes and Risk Factors

Research has not identified a precise reason why some people develop BPD. However, it is known that certain factors may increase your odds of being affected. First on the list of potential risk factors is your genetic background. Like many mental illnesses, the disorder may run in family bloodlines. The most notable risk is having someone in your immediate family with BPD. 

Changes in your brain’s chemical environment and structure may also have an effect. Such changes have been identified in people with the disorder. But no one knows yet if these brain effects come before or after you develop BPD. This means that their role as an actual cause is not clear.

It is also possible that particular events and situations in earlier life may help trigger BPD. Such events include:

  • Being exposed to childhood abuse or neglect
  • Living through other kinds of traumatic events
  • Growing up with parents who have a volatile relationship

The known risk factors for borderline personality disorder are not definitive. You may have one or more of them and still not develop the illness. At the same time, some people with BPD do not share any of the known risks.

BPD Diagnosis

BPD Diagnosis

Borderline personality disorder is typically diagnosed by a mental health professional. This is true because skill and experience play a major role in identifying the illness. The key to an accurate diagnosis is a complete clinical interview. This is a detailed conversation that lets your psychologist, clinical social worker or psychiatrist:

  • Determine your overall condition
  • Identify any specific symptoms that may be affecting you
  • Eliminate other kinds of personality disorders as a cause

Your interviewer will also ask questions about mental illnesses in your family background. In addition, there may be a consultation with others who are familiar with your personal history. Those consulted could be mental health professionals, doctors or your friends or family. To eliminate potential physical causes for your symptoms, you will also need a physical exam.  

Addiction and Borderline Personality Disorder

Substance abuse and addiction rates are high in people with BPD. This is not uncommon for cases of mental illness in general. However, BPD may lead to more problems that most other illnesses. Overall, about half of all people with a mental health condition have additional substance problems.  In BPD, as many as four in every five adults may be affected. 

Among people with the disorder, those suffering from abuse or addiction tend to be less stable than others with BPD. They also tend to be more involved in impulsive behaviors. These facts may explain the spike in substance-related issues compared to other illnesses.

BPD Treatment and Therapy Options

Treatment for BPD can be complicated. This is true, in part, because of the nature of the condition itself. Other factors also play a role. As noted, overlapping substance problems frequently occur. In addition, people with BPD are often affected by other mental illnesses. Examples of these illnesses include:

  • Eating disorders
  • Bipolar I disorder and other bipolar illnesses
  • Major depression or other depressive disorders
  • Anxiety disorders

Still, effective treatment plans are available. The foundation for BPD treatment is psychotherapy. This therapy is used to help you deal with the effects of your problems regulating emotions. Your therapy options may include:

  • Dialectical behavior therapy, or DBT
  • Psychodynamic psychotherapy
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT

Dialectical behavior therapy was specifically designed to treat BPD. It focuses on emotion regulation and other key aspects of self-awareness and self-control. The therapy has the added benefit of helping you overcome substance problems. This is often vital for people with BPD. Psychodynamic psychotherapy helps you understand the roots of your thoughts and emotions. Cognitive behavioral therapy helps you develop ways of thinking and acting that support mental health.

Medications often play an important part in treatment plans. However, there are currently no options designed to treat BPD in particular. Instead, doctors adapt medications designed for other purposes. To help reduce your negative feelings and mood swings, you may receive a mood-stabilizing medication. To help you think more clearly, your plan may include a low dose of an antipsychotic medication.

At certain points in your life, brief periods of hospitalization are possible. Likely reasons for taking this step include:

  • An uptick in suicide-related thoughts and behaviors
  • The need to protect you from other severe, impulsive actions
  • High-stress situations that overwhelm your ability to cope

When the moment of crisis passes, you can continue on with your normal treatment plan. While BPD is treatable, it is not curable. This means that you will have to manage its effects for the rest of your life.

Get More Information on Treating BPD

When BPD goes untreated, you are more likely to experience serious harm. That includes increased odds of developing substance problems or another mental illness. It also includes greater odds of leading an unhealthy lifestyle and developing physical problems. In addition, you may experience a serious increase your suicide risks. For these reasons, prompt, effective treatment is a must.

To get more information on treating BPD, just speak to the mental health specialists at Emerald Isle. We feature treatments that will help you recover from the disorder. We also feature effective treatments for any additional mental health or substance issues. Our comprehensive approach makes it easier for you to establish and maintain effective management of your condition.