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Thursday, May 20, 2021

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy for Borderline Personality Disorder

Borderline personality disorder is a severe mental health issue characterized by emotional dysfunction, persistent feelings of emptiness and relationship problems. According to the National Education Alliance for Borderline Personality Disorder, BPD affects 14 million American adults at some point in their lives.

What Is BPD?

While our earliest understanding of BPD revolved around the idea that people with the disorder were on the “borderline” between psychosis and neurosis, we now know this assumption is inaccurate. A more apt term for BPD might be “emotional dysregulation,” since an inability to self-soothe is a hallmark of this form of mental illness.

When facing emotional upheavals, a person with BPD may engage in impulsive or risky behaviors to cope. Substance abuse, self-harm, violence, driving under the influence and binge eating are a few examples of activities you might try to temporarily feel better. The problem is that these behaviors make matters worse in the long run.

While our scientific knowledge of what causes BPD is still somewhat lacking compared to our understanding of other mental illnesses, many researchers believe this disorder has genetic and environmental components. Traumatic experiences in childhood or early adulthood may also play a role in whether someone eventually develops this disorder.

Evidence-Based Therapy for Treating BPD

While there’s no cure for borderline personality disorder, some treatment methods have proven to be highly effective. Dialectical behavioral therapy, pioneered by Dr. Marsha Linehan, is the first form of psychotherapy shown to successfully treat BPD in controlled clinical trials. A therapist with experience in using DBT to treat borderline personality disorder will teach you skills to decrease emotion dysregulation and unhealthy attempts to cope with strong emotions.

In your customized DBT program, your counselor might recommend a hybrid of group and individual therapy. They will also expect you to keep track of your symptoms and progress throughout therapy. You can learn four central skills in DBT.
  • Mindfulness meditation: Your goal should be to live more fully in the present moment and observe experiences without judgment.
  • Interpersonal effectiveness: Set reasonable boundaries, become more assertive and manage conflict in your relationships.
  • Distress tolerance: Improve your coping skills and gain strategies for responding constructively.
  • Emotional regulation: Interpret your feelings and find healthy, non-destructive ways to manage them.

How to Find a Therapist Specializing in DBT

If you have received a diagnosis of borderline personality disorder, you can ask your health care provider or your state’s psychiatric association to refer you to a DBT specialist. You can also find an online list of therapists who have completed DBT-specific training offered by affiliates of the Linehan Institute or the University of Washington Behavioral Research & Therapy Clinics.

Dialectical behavioral therapy is one of the cutting-edge treatments we offer at Complete Harmony, a holistic, non-12-step drug and alcohol rehab program in California. Since BPD often co-occurs with substance abuse disorders and other mental health challenges, successful recovery requires treating both issues simultaneously. To learn more about achieving lasting recovery and learning to manage BPD symptoms, contact us today.
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