Teen Borderline Personality Disorder – Signs, Causes, and Treatment

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Borderline personality disorder can be challenging for everyone. Teen borderline personality disorder (BPD) disrupts an adolescent’s life. In addition, it disrupts the family as well. Widely misunderstood, a borderline personality disorder diagnosis is shocking. Moreover, this is true for both parents and teens.

Marsha M. Linehan is a leading worldwide authority on borderline personality disorder.  In addition, she is a respected University of Washington psychologist. In addition, she was also diagnosed with BPD herself. Thus, she understands the struggles firsthand.

In a Time magazine article, Linehan details borderline personality disorder. She offers a powerful description of people suffering from borderline personality disorder:

“Borderline individuals are the psychological equivalent of third-degree burn patients. They simply have, so to speak, no emotional skin. Even the slightest touch or movement can create immense suffering.”

What is Borderline Personality Disorder?

Borderline personality disorder connotes the lack of a stable sense of self. Hence, without a firm identity, people with borderline personality disorder have extreme emotional instability.  As a result, borderline personality disorder is like many other personality disorders. Moreover, it often first appears in teenagers and young adults.

Teens with borderline personality disorder find everyday life hard. Indeed, they don’t know how to process emotions. Thus, they have unstable relationships with even the people that care for them the most.

Teens with borderline personality disorder are unable to connect with others. Furthermore, they become isolated and desperate. Lacking a clear sense of self, they feel chaotic and stressed. Therefore, encounters and scenarios that should be relatively easy to manage become difficult.

There are effective options for healing from teen borderline personality disorder. Furthermore, current research suggests this truth. Consequently, most people with borderline personality disorder get better with time.

Effective borderline personality disorder treatment combines clinical approaches and holistic strategies. In addition, such treatment can help to stabilize BPD behaviors and reduce daily emotional challenges.

In most teens, BPD can be caught early and successfully treated. Also, in most cases, early treatment of teen borderline personality disorder is recommended. Therefore, such early treatment leads to better long-term outcome.

What Does Teen Borderline Personality Disorder Look Like?

University of Washington psychologist Marsha M. Linehan describes BPD in teens and children:

“The child does not learn how to understand, label, regulate, or tolerate emotional responses, and instead learns to oscillate between emotional inhibition and extreme emotional lability.”

The lack of a firm identity is a major challenge. As a result, teens with borderline personality disorder become incredibly dependent on others. Hence, they need to be “seen” and validated. Therefore, extreme narcissism is a defense mechanism. Truly, it covers up their profound fear of abandonment.

Devoid of a consistent sense of identity, borderline teens become chameleon-like. Hence, they parrot the world around them, appearing at times to be exactly what others want them to be. Yet, unable to process emotions, their imitation act often explodes into volatile outbursts.

Borderline Personality Disorder Symptoms

Teen borderline personality disorder signs include the following:

  1. Extreme emotional reactions; inappropriate and disproportional
  2. Distorted or dysfunctional self-image; a damaged identity
  3. Inability to connect or feel empathy for others; intense narcissism
  4. A persistent fear of abandonment and rejection
  5. Volatile mood changes without clear cause that are lasting
  6. Substance use disorder as a coping mechanism
  7. Overwhelming anxiety and worry beyond any actual risk
  8. Impulsive and risky behaviors; self-destructive patterns
  9. Unwarranted sexuality; acting out sexually
  10. Self-harm and suicidal behavior; suicide attempts.

Suicide and Borderline Personality Disorder

When it comes to BPD in teens, the threat of self-harm and suicide cannot be minimized. In addition, borderline personality disorder includes suicidal or self-injurious behavior among its diagnostic criteria. Furthermore, it is the only personality disorder type that includes such criteria.

This is per the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). The DSM-5 is published by the American Psychiatric Association.

About 70 percent of people with borderline personality disorder will make at least one suicide attempt. Even worse, close to 10 percent of people with BPD will commit suicide. Consequently, this rate of death is two to three times greater than that of schizophrenia.

In fact, it is by far the highest suicide rate of any mental health disorder.

Moreover, the BPD suicide rate is more than 50 times the rate of suicide in the general population of the United States.

In conclusion, it’s critical to ensure the safety of the environment for teens suffering from BPD. Thus, restricting access to lethal means is an effective form of suicide prevention.

Most importantly, an expert assessment is the crucial first step. Therefore, this leads to the right diagnosis.

Newport Academy Mental Health Resources: Borderline Personality Disorder

The Misdiagnosis of Teen Borderline Personality Disorder

Borderline personality disorder can be hard to diagnose. Subsequently, BPD is often mistaken for other personality disorder types and mental health conditions. Thus, teen borderline personality disorder is often misdiagnosed.

In addition, the diagnosis of borderline personality disorder has been difficult from the beginning. This difficulty is reflected in its very name.

In 1938, psychoanalyst Adolf Stern coined the term “borderline.” He first described most of the symptoms. They are now part of the diagnostic criteria of borderline personality disorder.

Dr. Stern believed that his patients with borderline personality disorder were on a murky border. Thus, they lurked between neurosis and psychosis.

In fact, the statistics on BPD misdiagnosis are startling. In one study, 40 percent of people with borderline personality disorder were misdiagnosed. They were misdiagnosed as having bipolar disorder.

Too often, borderline personality disorder symptoms are mistaken for another mental health condition.

BPD Misdiagnosed Mental Health Conditions

Here are some of the disorders that are commonly misdiagnosed in those with BPD:

  1. Bipolar Disorder: The emotional instability characteristic of BPD looks like bipolar disorder. It can be mistaken for cycling between mania and depression.
  2. Depression: BPD negative mood shifts are incorrectly identified as symptoms of teen depression.
  3. Teen Anxiety: Overwhelming worry produced by fear of abandonment. This can be mistaken for teen anxiety.
  4. Teen Substance Use Disorder: The abuse of drugs and/or alcohol is a BPD coping mechanism. Such substance abuse often is co-occurring. It is often mistaken as being only teen substance use disorder.
  5. Trauma: It’s true that trauma often underlies and even triggers BPD in teens. But borderline personality disorder is sometimes overlooked. Instead, a diagnosis of teen trauma or PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) is given.

Misdiagnosis presents problematic possibilities. Is your teen displaying symptoms of borderline personality disorder? They should be diagnosed by experienced professionals. They need a precise assessment by a professional treatment team. This assessment is essential.

Such a step leads directly to viable BPD recovery.

Newport Academy Mental Health Resources: Borderline Personality Disorder

Questions to Help Identify Borderline Personality Disorder

Are you a parent who suspects that your teen might be suffering from BPD?  There are questions to consider that may help illuminate the situation.

  1. Does your teen see things as black and white to the extreme? Do they define people as all good or all bad?
  2. Is your teen dangerously impulsive? Do they take senseless risks on a regular basis?
  3. Does your teen lack a firm sense of identity? Do they change all the time, almost cycling through personality types?
  4. Does your teen seem incapable of reading emotions?
  5. Does your teen feel crushed when a person leaves? Is their fear of abandonment not reflective of the emotional reality of a situation?
  6. Does the mood of your teen change for no apparent reason? Do these mood shifts seem extreme?
  7. Does your teen exhaust and lose relationships? Are their connections to other people more volatile than expected?
  8. Are your teen’s angry outbursts out of proportion to external circumstances? Is it hard to talk them down?

Many teens without borderline personality disorder can fit these descriptions. This is important to recognize.  Yet, answering yes to most these questions is a red flag. Such answers indicate that proactive steps should be taken toward a professional assessment.

If a teen is struggling with a borderline personality disorder, they are not alone. Borderline personality disorder affects close to 14 million Americans.

For further clarity, let’s illuminate the causes of borderline personality disorder.

Newport Academy Mental Health Resources: Borderline Personality Disorder

Understanding the Causes of Borderline Personality Disorder

The causes of borderline personality disorder are not fully understood. Without a doubt, there is a definite mix of environmental and genetic factors. Potential BPD causes include the following:

BPD Genetic Factors:

No specific BPD gene has yet to be identified. Still, studies in twins reveal a strong hereditary link. Thus, scientists conclude that genetics play a role in borderline personality disorder.

BPD genetic studies are gaining momentum. However, these preliminary findings await replication. Larger sample sizes and more precise methodologies are needed. Still, per recent scientific models, borderline traits concentrate in families. Such a concentration implies a genetic predisposition for the disorder.

Indeed, borderline personality disorder is five times more common with a previous BPD diagnosis in the family.

BPD Neurological Factors:

BPD patients lack the neural capacity needed to inhibit negative emotions. Thus, the part of the brain that regulates emotions and controls impulses is often damaged. Hence, such damage leads to the behavioral problems and personality issues.

Studies show the danger of abnormalities in the structure of the brain. 60 percent of the borderline personality disorder risk stems from this problem.

Moreover, the neurobiological response to chronic stress is a possible cause. Chronic stress exposure potentially can change brain metabolism and structure. Such changes might limit the brain’s abilities. It might limit the processing and integration of emotion and thought.

This discovery underscores the importance of early intervention. Indeed, early intervention can relieve chronic stress. Such early intervention minimizes neurological damage and improves recovery outcomes.

BPD and Traumatic History:

BPD patients often have a history of childhood trauma. Often, this trauma includes physical abuse, extreme stress, and/or abandonment. However, the abuse trauma tends to be outside the family unit.

Many people with borderline personality disorder report such traumatic life events. Indeed, most happen during childhood. Early exposure to unstable relationships and hostile conflicts also are potential factors.

Some people with borderline personality disorder do not have a history of trauma. Moreover, most people with a history of traumatic life events do not have borderline personality disorder. Hence, such a distinction is important to make.

When taken collectively, the above causes highlight the need for early interventions. Indeed, early interventions can reduce the extent of the potential damage. With teens, early interventions are essential.

Newport Academy Mental Health Resources: Borderline Personality Disorder

Additional Facts About Borderline Personality Disorder

The additional facts listed below are important for parents to know:

  1. BPD affects nearly as many people as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder combined.
  2. Women account for 75 percent of diagnosed BPD cases.
  3. BPD symptoms are most extreme in teens and young adults.
  4. Up to 70 percent of BPD patients report having been sexually abused. Such abuse is usually by non-caregivers outside the family unit.
  5. BPD patients make up 20 percent of psychiatric hospitalizations.
  6. Only 42 percent of BPD patients receive treatment for the condition.

Given the statistics, the need for action is clear. Research studies show long-lasting periods of BPD symptom remission are possible with treatment.

Therapeutic Interventions for BPD

In 1993, BPD psychologist Marsha Linehan chose Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). She used DBT for patients with borderline personality disorder.

Linehan embraced the biggest challenge. She focused on people with BPD who were prone to self-injurious behavior. Indeed, Linehan worked with the hardest cases that need and request frequent hospitalizations.

Her results showed that borderline personality disorder can be successfully treated. This outcome is particularly true when it comes to teens.

Here’s how DBT and other forms of therapy help foster sustainable healing:

  1. Dialectical Behavioral Therapy – DBT provides specific skills like mindfulness and emotional regulation. These skills can be used right away and become stronger with practice. As noted above, they work particularly well for teens with BPD.
  2. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – CBT brings clarity and valuable insight to a teen in crisis. CBT identifies the emotions that often result in a sense of isolation. It helps with the self-defeating thoughts and assumptions that make life more difficult.
  3. Motivational Enhancement Therapy (MET) – This therapy helps teens make positive choices moving forward. MET helps resolve difficulties that teens have with accepting treatment in the beginning.
  4. Mentalization Based Treatment – It shows them how to recognize and understand their own emotions and those of others. BPD teens did not fully learn these skills in childhood. Thus, such therapy focuses on identifying emotions and learning appropriate responses.
  5. Experiential Therapies – They are particularly powerful for teens with borderline personality disorder. These include art therapy, music therapy, Adventure Therapy, and Equine-Assisted Therapy. Such experience-based modalities help teens build self-esteem.
  6. Mindfulness and Yoga – Research shows that mindfulness meditation and yoga practice help. They decrease BPD-related insecurities and increase coping skills.

Newport Academy Mental Health Resources: Borderline Personality Disorder

Family-Based Approaches to BPD Treatment

Recent research has shown a positive effect when families are included. Families can aid the treatment of teen borderline personality disorder. From the beginning, Newport Academy has emphasized family participation. This is a key part of the teen treatment process.

Moreover, the families of teens with borderline personality disorder may also benefit from treatment. Dealing day in and day out with a loved one with BPD can be very stressful. Hence, family participation can lead to greater healing.

Also, family members can help a teen with borderline personality disorder. Moreover, participation is a demonstration of love and support. With borderline personality disorder, such a demonstration can truly help. Consequently, it addresses the abandonment and insecurity issues.

Newport Academy Mental Health Resources: Borderline Personality DIsorder

The Newport Academy BPD Treatment Program Can Help

Newport Academy provides superior borderline personality disorder treatment for teens. Our Treatment Team creates a personalized treatment plan for each teen. Furthermore, this plan includes a variety of modalities. Moreover, we focus on resolving challenging BPD behaviors and thinking patterns.

“At Newport Academy, we can use unique and cutting-edge treatment approaches that would take the state years to employ…. we have the ability and flexibility to tailor programs that best suit the needs of our residents.” —Helene D’Jay, LPC, Newport Academy Clinical Director, East Coast Campus

Teen borderline personality disorder treatment can work. Newport Academy has a track record of helping teens and families recover.

Do We Use Medications to Treat Borderline Personality Disorder?

Prescription medication is rarely the only answer for mental health concerns. This includes teen borderline personality disorder. Many teens with BPD are prescribed various medications, with no lasting positive effects.

There are ways to work with borderline personality disorder symptoms that are just as successful as medication. In fact, they have no dangerous side effects. Hence, our teen BPD treatment team believes long-term mental health goes beyond any medications. Rather, developing new behaviors and greater self-understanding is key. Indeed, this is what fosters a stronger sense of self and increases emotional stability.

Newport Academy Mental Health Resources: Borderline Personality Disorder

Teen Borderline Personality Disorder and Substance Use Disorder

Teens suffering from borderline personality disorder often self-medicate with drugs or alcohol. Thus, they might feel that this is the only way to numb the fear they’re experiencing. Hence, for BPD in teens, substance use is a negative coping skill. Indeed, it reduces the fear of abandonment and cope with profound insecurities.

The Calm Sanctuary of Residential Treatment

Newport Academy provides the highest-quality care using evidence-based methods. Indeed, our staff and clinicians are among the elite in their respective fields. Thus, we understand the challenges of borderline personality disorder.

First, we help teens break the cycle of BPD negative behaviors. Then, we treat the underlying causes of borderline personality disorder. Residential treatment allows teens to heal, free from distraction. Therefore, they discover a nourishing, empathic environment. Thus, our approach fosters true long-term recovery from borderline personality disorder.

“It is our mission to provide the most comprehensive, impactful treatment for teens to sustain long-term recovery. We enable young people to move out of the darkness and into the light, into happy, fulfilling lives.” —Jamison Monroe Jr., Newport Academy Founder and CEO

What Makes Our Residential Treatment Program Different?

1) Personalized Treatment

Our priority is to offer the most effective personalized treatment available. We incorporate evidence-based clinical and experiential therapeutic modalities. In addition, we tailor an integrated and comprehensive care plan. Thus the goal of the plan is to meet each teen’s needs, strengths, and challenges.

Upon admission, residents are assigned an eight-person treatment team. This team develops a customized program to promote growth and sustainable healing.

Always in close contact, the treatment team includes the following professionals:

  1. Psychiatrist
  2. Individual Therapist
  3. Family Therapist
  4. Medical Doctor/Pediatrician
  5. Registered Nurse
  6. Registered Dietician/Nutritionist
  7. Recovery Counselor
  8. Clinical Director (oversees and manages the treatment team).

Take a moment to meet our team.

“Newport Academy is built around honesty, integrity, and courageous teamwork. It’s a privilege and honor to work with caring individuals who put their heart and soul into what they do. Newport Academy provides an approach that is experiential, creative, loving, and dynamic. It is an honor to witness adolescents and families change as they get the help they need.” —Marcie Beasley, MA, LMFT, Newport Academy Clinical Director, West Coast Campus

2) Our Philosophy Is Love

We help teens by providing a safe, accepting, and nurturing environment. We pride ourselves on providing unconditional love and support every adolescent who comes through our doors. Thus, teens feel safe enough to explore and resolve underlying issues.

The Newport Academy staff’s clinical expertise is matched only by their compassion. Hence, we provide the care that supports each teen’s self-worth and self-acceptance.


Newport Academy Mental Health Resources: Borderline Personality Disorder

3) We Achieve Results

We have achieved an unparalleled success rate since our founding. Thus, 85 percent of our teens complete the Newport Academy program. Please learn how we treat BPD in teens. Indeed, browse our website or call us at 877-959-0904. We are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Moreover, Newport Academy has a 4:1 staff-to-client ratio.

If Newport Academy is not the right fit, then we will help you find a solution that works for you.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]