Borderline Personality Disorder and Physical Health

Physical health is often impacted in those with borderline personality disorder

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Borderline personality disorder (BPD) does not only have an impact on a person's mental health. It affects how a person behaves and feels about themselves and others around them. People with BPD are more likely to report a variety of physical health problems, and are more likely to need to be hospitalized for medical reasons.

Below are some of the physical health problems that have been associated with BPD.

Fortunately, there are steps that can be taken to improve the health of someone with BPD.

Physical Health Problems Associated with BPD

Health-Related Lifestyle Issues

BPD is also associated with less healthy lifestyle choices. For example, people with BPD are more likely to report more or heavy smoking, daily alcohol consumption, lack of regular exercise, daily use of sleep medications, and daily use of pain medications. People with BPD may express anger openly, sometimes in the form of physical aggression. Angry behavior, ranging from sarcastic comments to physical violence against other people, is one common sign of BPD. Risky behavior such as unsafe sex, shoplifting, unsafe driving, binge eating, drug abuse, fighting, self-harm and suicide are also possible and pose significant physical risk to the person with BPD or those around them.

There are a few reasons why this association between BPD and poorer health behaviors exists. First, experiencing a lot of negative emotions may lead people with BPD to feel less motivated to take positive steps that may improve their health. Also, they may use substances like nicotine and alcohol to try to feel better.

Links Between BPD and Health

Unfortunately, we don't yet know exactly why BPD is associated with health problems. One possibility is that the symptoms of the disorder lead people to make poor lifestyle choices. Another possibility is that the same things that cause BPD (e.g., genetics, exposure to stressful events) also cause some health problems.

Most likely, the link between BPD and physical health is complex, and more research is needed to fully understand the connection.

However, there are still things that can be done to improve the health of someone with BPD. Research has shown that people who once had BPD but no longer meet criteria for the disorder are less likely to report health concerns. For example, paying attention to health-related lifestyle choices and making changes to unhealthy behaviors (e.g., quitting smoking) can help. It may be that getting treatment for BPD symptoms may also improve physical health.

How to Help Someone with BPD

If you have observed one or more of these signs of BPD in a loved one, it may make sense to encourage him or her to see a professional for an evaluation.

Referrals are available from a variety of online sources, including Ucompare Healthcare and the American Psychological Association.

Let the person know that you are concerned, encourage them to get the help. There are excellent treatments available whenever they are ready to reach out for help. By showing that you care for his well-being, you are helping him get on the path to recovery. 

Sources

Frankenburg, F, and Zanarini, MC. The Association Between Borderline Personality Disorder and Chronic Medical Illnesses, Poor Health-Related Lifestyle Choices, and Costly Forms of Health Care Utilization. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. December 2004. 65: 1660-1665.

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