Pete Davidson was recently diagnosed with a serious mental illness, Borderline Personality Disorder. As a cast member on Saturday Night Live, Pete used his diagnosis as an opportunity to raise awareness, encourage people to seek help, and (of course!) make people laugh. On Weekend Update, Pete let people know how hard it has been to manage his symptoms, but how much therapy has helped him. Pete’s willingness to be vulnerable likely encouraged many people, but he also directly told the audience, “first of all, if you think you’re depressed, see a doctor and talk to them about medication, and also be healthy. Eating right and exercise can make a huge difference. And finally, if you are in the cast of a late-night comedy show, it might help, if they, ya know, do more of your sketches.” That last piece may not be universally applicable, but seeking out help and care are fantastic advice. Borderline Personality Disorder is a mental illness that can severely impede an individuals’ success, but it is also a disorder that has treatment. Therapy for Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) has helped many people, just like Pete, find their balance in life.
Thriveworks Alexandria, VA (Franconia) has worked with many clients who are struggling with BPD, and we have helped them manage their symptoms and thrive.
Borderline Personality Disorder—Signs and Symptoms
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) groups ten mental illnesses under the category of personality disorder. Each of these ten can produce maladaptive behaviors in people—that is, the disorders’ signs and symptoms are behaviors, feelings, and attitudes that make life harder. Each personality disorder has a unique characteristic, and BPD’s is volatility. People with Borderline Personality Disorder often experience unstable emotions, identities, and relationships.
“It is as if my life were magically run by two electric currents: joyous positive and despairing negative —whichever is running at the moment dominates my life, floods it.” — The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath
Sylvia Plath is one of many celebrities who suffered from BPD. The volatility of BPD shows up in symptoms that are disrupted people’s everyday lives. That means, people with the disorder regularly face symptoms like…
- A history of broken relationships that often begin with idealization of the other person and end with a vilification of them.
- A deep fear of separation or abandonment, and the ability to take extremes to avoid them.
- An ability to alter one’s identity, values, and goal easily.
- A severe sensitivity to receiving any kind of rejection or criticism (even healthy kinds, like constructive criticism).
- Impulsive and risky behaviors that are potentially dangerous and harmful: gambling, unsafe sex, daredevil driving, self-sabotage, binge eating, spending sprees, drug use, and more.
- An attempted or the threat of attempting suicide or self-harm (especially as a response to fear, criticism, or rejection).
- Vacillating between extreme feelings: anxiety and euphoria, irritability and happiness, et cetera.
- Belligerence, outbursts of anger, bitterness, sarcasm, and more.
- An on-going feeling of emptiness.
BPD Risk Factors and Development
Just over 1 percent of the US population is affected by Borderline Personality Disorder. It is not completely clear what causes BPD, but mental health professionals have identified certain environmental, genetic, physical, and social factors that can raise an individual’s risk. These include…
- Loss of a caregiver as a child.
- A history of childhood trauma (particularly emotional, sexual, or physical abuse by a caregiver).
- A genetic history of mental illness, in particular BPD.
- A reduced hippocampus size (region of the brain that manages emotion and stress responses).
Treatment Options for BPD
There are many different ways to treat Borderline Personality Disorder. Skilled therapists can often help people find the right option for them, but often, that treatment plan include a type of therapy called dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). This therapy was developed specifically to treat BPD, and it has proven so effective, that it is often used to treat other disorders as well. It’s healing techniques focus upon skills such as…
- Emotional regulation – helps individuals respond to difficult feelings by processing them in a healthy way so that the emotions do not overwhelming them or dictate them.
- Distress tolerance – emphasizes how life is full of ups and downs, successes and setbacks, highs and lows. Distress tolerance teaches people how to handle the more difficult parts of life with resiliency.
- Mindfulness – seeks to increase self-awareness. Sometimes, people do not know what their body is sensing or what they are thinking or how they are feeling. Mindfulness is the art of paying attention to those things without judgment and without fear.
- Interpersonal effectiveness – relationships are important for all of life, and interpersonal effectiveness skills help people cultivate successful relationships in a wide variety of contexts—at home, at the office, in the community, and more.
Appointments at Thriveworks Alexandria (Franconia) for Borderline Personality Disorder
Did any of the symptoms of BPD jump out to you? If you recognized some of the symptoms in your own life, consider reaching out for help. The harm that BPD causes may be mitigated through therapy. Thriveworks Alexandria has appointments available for BPD. If you are ready for help, we are ready to offer it. When you contact our office, a real person (one of our scheduling specialists) will answer and help you make an appointment. New clients often meet with their counselor the day following their first call. Weekend and evening sessions are offered, and we accept many different insurance plans. Call today.