Is There a Cure for Borderline Personality Disorder?

Does Borderline Personality Disorder Ever Go Away?

Man talking in group therapy session
Is borderline personality disorder curable?. Tom Merton/Caiaimage/Getty Images

Is there a cure for borderline personality disorder? Will my symptoms ever go away or do I have to live like this all my life?

Borderline Personality Disorder - Curable vs Recovery

Many people who are diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD) ask if it can be cured. Unfortunately there is a lot of misinformation out there. In addition, it can take awhile to understand the terms that doctors use.

Borderline personality disorder is not curable, but it is treatable and recovery is possible. Though mental health specialists rarely use the word "cured" many people recover or at least have the symptoms of their disorder controlled so that they can live an xx life.

To understand the terminology it may be helpful to compare BPD with some cancers. Treatment is available, and many people recover, but it's unlikely that a person will ever hear the word "cured."

The Myth That Treatment Can't Help with Borderline Personality Disorder

One very common myth is that borderline personality disorder cannot be treated. Fortunately, this myth just isn't true.

In the past, experts did believe that BPD did not respond to treatment. However, in the past few decades, a number of new treatments for BPD have been developed (for example, dialectical behavior therapy), which have been shown to be effective in reducing the symptoms of BPD.

Medications have also been shown to be helpful in treating borderline personality disorder for some people.

Not Everyone Is 'Cured,' but Some Do Recover

So, does this mean there is a cure for borderline personality disorder? Not exactly. Yes, there are a number of effective treatments for BPD. These treatments can result in such substantial symptom reduction for some individuals that by the end of treatment they might be considered "recovered" or "cured."

In fact, there's evidence showing that many people who are diagnosed with borderline personality disorder can "lose" the diagnosis within a few years because they no longer meet the criteria. This sometimes happens even without treatment. Misdiagnosis of borderline personality disorder appears to be very common.

But, not everyone experiences such dramatic symptom reduction. Many people who undergo treatment for borderline personality disorder continue to have some symptoms, but find the symptoms to be much more tolerable, and report that they are able to function far better in their lives. In this way, borderline personality disorder is similar, in some ways, to diabetes. With treatment the disease does not go away, but the symptoms are managed very well on a long term basis. You may hear your therapist talk about "long term control" and this is what is often meant.

Bottom Line on BPD and Treatment, Recovery, and Cure

The bottom line? There's no way to know how any one person with borderline personality disorder will respond to the various treatment options that are available.

Nonetheless, there definitely are treatments for BPD that are remarkably effective and may produce a "cure" in some people. And even for those who do not fully recover from borderline personality disorder, treatment is extremely helpful.

What Can You Do if You're Diagnosed with BPD?

If you are diagnosed with BPD, it's important not to panic about a lack of a cure or other inaccurate information that is out there. As noted, misdiagnosis is common. Finding a good therapist is essential, both to determine if you truly have BPD, and to help you manage the symptoms if you do.

There is much overlap between mental health conditions. For example, it's thought that half of people diagnosed with BPD also suffer from major depressive disorder. Improvement and recovery will thus require managing these different aspects of your condition as well.

Take the time to learn about your condition, and be your own advocate in your care. Some people need to "interview" a few therapists before they find the one who can help them manage their disorder over the long term. When you are improving, you will possibly face one of the most difficult decisions. When should you quit therapy? The answer will vary for each person.

In addition to learning all you can about your disease, check out these self-help strategies for BPD which you can do yourself. Many of the coping skills used to deal with BPD are skills that can help anyone, and therefore may help you whether or not you continue to fit the criteria for BPD in the future.

BPD and Family Relationships

When we discuss the treatments for BPD we often talk about individuals, but a diagnosis of BPD in a family member affects all members and creates unique challenges. In addition to a traditional treatment plan, family therapy for BPD can help not only the person living with the disorder, but the whole family.

Sources:

Biskin, R. The Lifetime Course of Borderline Personality Disorder. Canadian Journal of Psychiatry. 2015. 60(7):303-8.

Stone, M. Recovery from Borderline Personality Disorder. American Journal of Psychiatry. 2010. 167(6):618-9.

Winsper, C., Marwaha, S., Lereya, S., Thompson, A., Eyden, J., and S. Singh. Clinical and Psychosocial Outcomes of Borderline Personality Disorder in Childhood and Adolescence: A Systematic Review. Psychological Medicine. 2015. 45(11):2237-51.

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