Destigmatizing Borderline Personality Disorder

Destigmatizing Borderline Personality Disorder

Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a complex mental health disorder characterized by patterns of varying moods, behaviors and sense of self. This condition is heavily associated with negative stigma because of the sudden, unexpected symptoms it can produce. Lack of knowledge and misconceptions surrounding borderline personality disorder have made it even more challenging for those who struggle to seek treatment and recovery.

Nearly 3% of adults are affected by borderline personality disorder, with almost 80% of those adults experiencing a co-occurring substance use disorder or addiction at some point in their lives. Due to its prevalence, it is essential to acknowledge and reduce the stigmas surrounding this condition by bringing awareness to the many complex factors involved.

What is Borderline Personality Disorder?

A person with borderline personality disorder has chronic, long-term patterns of unstable behaviors and emotions that result in impulsive actions and chaotic relationships. While there is no one root cause of BPD, genetics, environment and social factors are understood to play a role in developing the condition. Risk factors include:

  • Significant experiences of childhood trauma
  • Poor communication within the family
  • Sexual, physical or emotional abuse

Signs and Symptoms of BPD

Individuals with borderline personality disorder commonly experience uncertainty with how they view themselves and the world around them. They tend to view things as extremes, such as all good or bad. Their opinions of others can change quickly, which can complicate relationships.

Other signs and symptoms of BPD may include:

  • Feelings of dissociation, emptiness and depression
  • Patterns of intense or unstable relationships
  • Distorted and unstable sense of self
  • Impulsive behaviors, such as substance use
  • Self-harming behaviors
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Intense, highly changeable moods
  • Issues with trust
  • Significant efforts to avoid abandonment (either real or imaginary)

This condition lies among personality disorders in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) characterized by an individual’s ability to relate to the world around them. Due to the emotional highs and lows, borderline personality disorder is often considered a mood disorder. Interestingly, however, while individuals with BPD experience extreme variations in mood, the disorder itself is defined instead by relational difficulties.

BPD and Addiction

A mental health disorder will always increase an individual’s risk of developing a co-occurring substance use disorder. The characterizing factor of borderline personality disorder is a disconnection from self and others, which leads to feelings of emptiness and depression. In an attempt to cope with these distressing feelings, individuals with BPD will often self-medicate with substances.

Substance use can be a result of impulsive behavior, which is another common symptom of BPD. Self-medicating provides temporary relief to the individual; however, the underlying symptoms only worsen over time. Often, individuals with BPD who turn to substances to cope will feel worse after doing so because their life circumstances have not changed. Repeated substance use leads to the cycle of addiction. When BPD and addiction co-occur, the effects of both conditions are magnified, making treatment and recovery even more challenging.

Addressing the Stigmas Associated With BPD

Stigmas are marks of shame toward an individual or group of people that share a distinguishing characteristic. Stigmas present significant obstacles for individuals who struggle, such as limiting the opportunity to seek out and receive treatment, which prolongs recovery.

The stigmas surrounding borderline personality disorder affect individuals that struggle with the condition and the healthcare workers that are supposed to provide treatment for individuals with BPD. Common stigmas and misconceptions surrounding this condition include:

  • Due to erratic behaviors and moods, individuals with BPD are hard to work with.
  • Individuals with BPD have self-control but lack willpower; therefore, their symptoms are attention-seeking behaviors.
  • Individuals with BPD are treatment-resistant.

These misconceptions developed from a lack of knowledge, awareness and understanding. Individuals with borderline personality disorder lack a sense of identity, which often makes them feel misunderstood and judged by others, even healthcare providers. For treatment to be effective, mental health professionals must be consistent in their relationship and attitude toward the individual receiving therapy for BPD. Good therapeutic relationships are essential for positive treatment outcomes.

Effective Treatments of BPD and Co-Occurring Substance Use Disorders

The most effective way to treat borderline personality disorder and any other co-occurring substance use is by treating all conditions simultaneously. The most common forms of treatment include psychotherapy, medications or a combination of the two. In order for treatment to be successful, the individual in recovery must have access to social support through their loved ones or in their community.

The primary treatment goals of BPD are to increase an individual’s sense of self and foster healthy ways for the individual to cope with emotional dysregulation. The most popular psychotherapy treatments for BPD include:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Dialectal behavior therapy (DBT)
  • Psychodynamic psychotherapy

Medication may also be used in conjunction with the psychotherapy process. There is no one medication made for symptoms of BPD, although mood stabilizers and antidepressants can help with emotional regulation and mood swings. In some cases, anti-psychotics may be prescribed to help with disorganized thinking or other symptoms.

Borderline personality disorder is a complex mental health condition marked by inconsistent patterns in mood, behavior and sense of self. At Casa Palmera, we treat both mental health disorders and substance use disorders with the help of individualized treatment plans. We offer several diverse treatment programs and therapies to ensure that your treatment plan will fit your unique needs and goals. If you or someone you know is struggling with BPD or a co-occurring substance use disorder, do not hesitate to contact Casa Palmera. Give us a call today at (855) 508-0473.


This blog is for informational purposes only and should not be a substitute for medical advice. We understand that everyone’s situation is unique, and this content is to provide an overall understanding of substance use disorders. These disorders are very complex, and this post does not take into account the unique circumstances for every individual. For specific questions about your health needs or that of a loved one, seek the help of a healthcare professional.