Borderline Personality Disorder Treatment

Psychotherapy, Medications, Hospitalization, and Self-Help for BPD

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What are the treatment options for borderline personality disorder (BPD)?. Hill Street Studios/Blend Images/Getty Images

There are a variety of effective treatments for borderline personality disorder (BPD). What treatments seem to work best, and what should I know about the options available?

Treatment Options for Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)

Usually, BPD is treated with a combination of medication and psychotherapy, although during times of crisis, individuals with BPD may require brief periods of hospitalization to remain safe.

More recently, self-help tools have been developed to supplement traditional treatments for BPD.

Psychotherapy - Borderline Personality Disorder Treatment Options

Long-term outpatient psychotherapy, or "talk therapy," is an important part of any treatment for BPD. Research has shown that several types of psychotherapy are effective in reducing the symptoms of BPD, including:

  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)
    Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) was the first form of psychotherapy found to be effective for people with borderline personality disorder (BPD.) DBT is a form of cognitive behavior therapy which focuses on how thoughts and beliefs can lead to actions and behaviors. In this therapy, people learn how to manage conflict, and learn skills to help them cope with strong emotions. Mindfulness meditation is also often included.
     
  • Schema Focused Therapy
    Schema focused therapy is also a form of cognitive behavior therapy for BPD. Schema focused therapy operates with the thought that unmet needs from childhood can lead to unhealthy ways of thinking about the world. This therapy focuses on confronting these maladaptive beliefs and behaviors and instead focus on healthy ways of thinking and coping.
     
  • Mentalization Based Therapy
    Mentalization based therapy has been studied to some degree for BPD and may help with anxiety and depression as well as social functioning. This therapy focuses on helping the client to recognize mental states—her own thoughts and feelings, as well as the thoughts and feelings of others she communicates with. Through recognition she is then able to see how these thoughts contribute to her behavior or the behavior of others.
  • Transference Focused Psychotherapy
    Transference focused psychotherapy has been studied for BPD and may be as good or better than dialectical behavior therapy according to these studies. This therapy uses the concept of transference—transferring emotions from one person to another, which is a key concept in psychodyamic therapies. Transference focused psychotherapy utilizes the relationship between the client and the therapist so that the therapist can see how a client relates to others. The therapist can then use this awareness to help a person respond more effectively in their other relationships.

Medications for Borderline Personality Disorder

Although there are currently no medications for borderline personality disorder approved by the FDA, research has shown that some medications do reduce certain symptoms of the disorder. Medication may be particularly effective for BPD when it is used in conjunction with psychotherapy. In addition to helping with BPD symptoms, medications may help with co-existing mental health conditions such as anxiety or depression.

Some of the most commonly prescribed medications for BPD include:

  • Antidepressants - Antidepressants may help with feelings such as sadness, but do not appear to be helpful for symptoms such as anger.
  • Antipsychotics - Antipsychotics were some of the first medications used to treat BPD and may be particularly helpful for some of the more problematic symptoms of BPD such as anger, impulsivity, and paranoid thinking.
  • Anxiolytics (anti-anxiety medicaitons) - Anxiety can go hand in hand with BPD making some of these medications helpful, yet some of these are a double edged sword due to their addictive potential.
  • Mood stablizers/anticonvulsants - Mood stabilizers may help with the impulsive thinking common with BPD.

Other potential treatments, such as omega-3-fatty acids, are also being explored. In fact, studies to date have not found significant benefit from most medications for BPD with the exception of atypical antipsychotics (second generations antipsychotics), mood stabilzers, and omega-3-fatty acids.

Hospitalization - Intensive Borderline Personality Disorder Treatment

Borderline personality disorder is associated with very intense emotional experiences. As a result, people with BPD may need intensive BPD treatment.Sometimes people with BPD are admitted to a psychiatric hospital for intensive inpatient treatment. Inpatient treatment requires you to stay overnight in the hospital.

Another treatment option is partial hospitalization or day treatment. These are programs that are more intensive than traditional outpatient psychotherapy, but do not require you to stay overnight. You may be enrolled in a partial hospital or day program if you may be headed toward a crisis, or if you have just been discharged from inpatient hospitalization and need a period of more intensive treatment to make sure the crisis does not reemerge.

Selfl Help - Self-Guided Borderline Personality Disorder Treatment

Self-help strategies for BPD are an essential part of any treatment program. Of course, these should be used to supplement care from a qualified therapist and not alone. An ideal plan includes learning as much as you can about your disorder through self-help education, learning healthy coping skills for BPD, and finding ways to help you express and manage your emotions.

There are valuable self-help resources available for BPD that can be used in conjunction with more traditional forms of treatment. Books and online resources offer information about BPD and suggest ways to cope with the symptoms.

Treatment in a Crisis

If you or someone you love is experiencing a mental health emergency, it is critical that you get help immediately. Call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room. If there is evidence that you (or your loved one) are a danger to yourself or others, you may be admitted for a brief hospital stay on an inpatient psychiatric unit until the crisis has passed. It's recommended that anyone living with BPD put together a safety plan for BPD. In this plan you can anticipate a crisis and make a plan about exactly how you will address your feelings before they become an emergency.

Sources:

Combs, G., and L. Oshman. Pearls for Working with People Who Have Personality Disorder Diagnoses. Primary Care. 2016. 43(2):263-8.

Stoffers, J., and K. Lieb. Pharmacotherapy for Borderline Personality Disorder – Current Evidence and Recent Trends. Current Psychiatry Reports. 2015. 17(1):534.

Stoffers, J., Vollm, B., Rucker, G., Timmer, A., Huband, N., and K. Lieb. Psychological Therapies for People with Borderline Personality Disorder. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2012. 8:CD005652.

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