Mental & Emotional Health

Bipolar Disorder: What You Need to Know


Much attention is paid to the issue of depression, but there is another mental illness that people know much less about. They may be suffering from it, or living with a person who has it. And not being aware of borderline personality disorder in cases like that can lead to serious consequences.

Here, from the experts at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), is Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is a serious mental illness marked by unstable moods, behavior, and relationships. It affects about 1.6 percent of adults in the U.S. in any given year.

Some characteristics of BPD include: problems with regulating emotions and thoughts; impulsive and reckless behavior; and unstable relationships.

The NIMH experts say that people also have high rates of other disorders such as depression, substance abuse and eating disorders. (That pattern is more common in women than men.)  Other illnesses that often occur with BPD include diabetes, high blood pressure, chronic back pain, arthritis, and fibromyalgia. These conditions are associated with obesity, which is a common side effect of the medications prescribed to treat BPD and other mental disorders.

Additionally, they may harm or even kill themselves. BPD is also characterized by self-harming behaviors such as cutting and head banging.

Although the research on possible causes and risk factors is still in its early stages, experts agree that both genetic and environmental factors are probably involved. There may be social and cultural factors as well.

Unfortunately, the NIMH experts say, BPD is often underdiagnosed or misdiagnosed. They recommend an expert in diagnosing and treating mental disorders, as well as an exam by an M.D. that can rule out other possible cause of the symptoms.

Although experts have often thought of BPD as difficult to treat, recent research shows that some treatments can be effective and that many BPD sufferers improve over time.

The condition can be treated with psychotherapy; there is no FDA-approved medication to treat it.  Families of people with BPD may also benefit from therapy. This is especially important because, the NIMH says, members may unknowingly act in ways that worsen symptoms. The NIMH says more research is needed to determine the effectiveness of family therapy involving both the patient and family.

Helping Someone with BPD

If you know someone who has BPD, the experts say, it affects you as well. The best thing you can do is to help your friend or relative get the right diagnosis and treatment. The NIMH experts say that you  may need to make an appointment and accompany your friend or relative.

Other steps that can help:

Offer emotional support, understanding, patience, and encouragement

Learn about mental disorders, including BPD.

Never ignore comments about someone’s intent or plan to harm himself or herself or someone else. Report such comments to the person’s therapist or doctor. In urgent or potentially life-threatening situations, the NIMH experts emphasize, you may need to call the police.

If You Think You Have BPD

Talk to your doctor about treatment options and stick with treatment

Try to maintain a stable schedule of meals and sleep times

Engage in mild activity or exercise to help reduce stress

Set realistic goals

Break up large tasks into small ones, set some priorities, and do what you can, as you can

Try to spend time with other people and confide in a trusted friend or family member

Tell others about events or situations that may trigger symptoms

Expect your symptoms to improve gradually, not immediately

Identify and seek out comforting situations, places, and people

Continue to educate yourself about this disorder.

For more information on mental disorders from the National Institute of Mental Health, click here

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