By Joy Sprague and Perry Hoffman, Ph.D.
Somewhere between 2-5% of the U.S. population lives with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). This disorder is highly treatable, and individuals often live with other mental health conditions as BPD rarely stands alone. Without recognition and treatment of BPD’s symptoms, recovery from co-occurring conditions often cannot happen. At the National Education Alliance for Borderline Personality Disorder (NEABPD), we frequently hear from family members or individuals in recovery that “BPD symptoms were never identified or treated and struggling was prolonged because of that.”
Many people often struggle unnecessarily for decades because it’s a longstanding myth that BPD cannot be diagnosed under the age of 18. In truth, the beginnings of the disorder can be found in young people—symptoms can even be seen in childhood. And as with any illness—medical or psychiatric—the earlier the identification of the symptoms, the better the outcome. Whether it be cancer or psychosis, there exists no data that shows otherwise.
Early identification is particularly important with BPD because the condition’s damaging emotional patterns can become cemented during the formative teenage years. The consequences of BPD’s severe emotional dysregulation may lead to behaviors that negatively affect school, jobs and relationships with friends and family.
Behaviors like avoidance, perceived or real abandonment, isolation, extreme anxiety and social awkwardness can potentially escalate to self-harming behaviors such as cutting. If left untreated, these patterns can become ingrained to escape a painful mental existence. Learning early emotion regulation, validation and distress tolerance skills can help during the teenage years, providing hope for a better future.
We spearheaded the start of the Global Alliance for Prevention and Early Intervention for Borderline Personality Disorder (GAP) in 2014. The focus of this initiative is to identify the seeds and early emergence of BPD. We urge the detection of BPD symptoms to become a standard practice for pediatricians and clinicians. That way, treatment options can be discussed as early as possible.
Imperative to a healthy childhood (and adulthood) is the realization that an individual is not alone in their journey and that family, friends and health professionals are there to help them. When it comes to BPD, a family’s engagement in treatment may very well save an individual’s life—changing a once-hopeless, solitary landscape to one of hope.
We have been working to add to that landscape of hope by offering resources to family members—one of which is our Family Connections™ program. The 12-week, researched-based program (formulated on the structure of NAMI’s Family-to-Family) was designed by Alan E. Fruzzetti, Ph.D. and Perry D. Hoffman, Ph.D.
Since its start, Family Connections™ (FC) has helped families enable their loves ones to build healthy emotional relationships. FC is shown to decrease the burden, guilt and depression of those living with BPD and also teach skills that raise the level of personal empowerment. The program is available in more than 20 countries, and its demand increases each year across the globe.
Public health initiatives, like May’s BPD Awareness Month, are being launched to help eradicate BPD stigma from both physical and mental health professionals. Notifying congressional representatives of the severity and frequency of BPD is imperative to eliminating the ill effects that stigma has on families and individuals affected by BPD.
Since 2006, BPD has been represented annually at each NAMI National Convention. Thank you, NAMI, for your continuing support. We are appreciative of your focus to help the lives of those living with mental health conditions. You are an encouragement to NEABPD’s ongoing determination to raise awareness and fight stigma on BPD. Together, we can provide help and hope to individuals and families experiencing borderline personality disorder.
The largest BPD media library collection in the world, more information on BPD, and countless resources can be found at www.borderlinepersonalitydisorder.com.
Joy Sprague is NEABPD Liaison to NAMI and Perry Hoffman is President of NEABPD.
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