There are many myths that I hope to address in my articles, as BPD remains a mysterious and undiscussed mental illness. I want to help people to understand what it is like to live with BPD, the struggles but also the hope of recovery. I recently answered a popular question of whether people with BPD feel empathy. And today, I want to consider whether BPD can be cured.
It’s essential in this to acknowledge what we mean by ‘cured’. I’m looking at cured in terms of complete removal of symptoms. But others could see it as maintaining a healthy lifestyle or no longer fitting the diagnosis. ‘Cured’ is a tricky thing to approach for mental illness, and even more so for a personality disorder.
“Personality disorders are hard to treat, as psychological disturbance is woven into the fabric of one’s personality. It provides a backdrop for discrete mental health problems like depression, anxiety, substance abuse, eating disorders, etc.” - Judith Belmont
You can’t just separate your disorder from your sense of self, as they are too entangled. It isn’t removing lowered moods or compulsive habits; it’s reworking your unhealthy thought and behaviour patterns. You can stop self-harming, but can you stop the initial beliefs that led to it, of being worth less than others and deserving of punishment?
BPD stands for Borderline Personality Disorder. It is a mental health disorder that disrupts daily functioning, changing the way you think and feel about yourself and others. Symptoms include an intense fear of abandonment, impulsive and/or self-destructive behaviours and persistent feelings of emptiness. You can find out more about BPD in this article.
BPD is usually diagnosed in your twenties, although the behaviours have been present since childhood. It’s been found to be worse in young adulthood, and gradually get better with age as symptoms lower in intensity, and you learn to manage it.
Some psychologists will not treat BPD, as they consider it to be too wrapped up in the individual’s personality or ‘untreatable’. Don’t worry; many others see BPD for what it is: a mental illness that can be helped through the correct therapy. Here are some of the main treatments for BPD:
Is medication offered for BPD? Given that BPD can be comprised or linked to other mental illnesses, the medication provided is usually to treat those aspects. This could include mood stabilisers or antipsychotics. But this should always come from a psychiatrist trained in personality disorders and alongside therapy.
If there are treatments for BPD, surely it can be cured then? BPD is not a simple illness, and successful therapy does not mean that the personality disorder is cured. But that doesn’t mean that there will not be (long) periods without any issues.
Zanarini et al. found that over the ten years following hospitalisation for BPD, 86% of individuals stopped meeting the criteria for BPD for at least four years. Similarly, Chapman found that 70% of individuals no longer met the criteria for BPD at some point in a six year follow-up period. What does this mean? This suggests that individuals with BPD can get better, and can maintain symptoms well in the years that follow treatment.
But the reason that we refrain from saying BPD can be cured is that a lot of it is mimicked within the personality of the individual, and is hard to separate. This doesn’t make BPD a life sentence; it merely means that the individual will still hold traces of it and perhaps thought patterns. But through therapy and correct treatment, they will be able to identify this and act accordingly.
There is no quick fix for BPD, no easy ‘cure’. Instead, it is about addressing the survival mechanisms you’ve built and starting to rework them. It is a longterm process, but you can regain control of your life and your future.
There will always be exceptions, but generally speaking, BPD is not something that is ‘cured’. The same applies to most mental illnesses, you don’t ‘cure’ them, but you remove stressors and learn to manage symptoms. You discover how to recognise your negative thoughts and control them. You understand the way your mind works and how to help it best.
When I was first diagnosed and discovered that BPD is not ‘curable’, but instead is something you learn to maintain, I was disheartened. I was trapped in the stigma of BPD and felt like I had been told that things would never get better. But now I understand what they mean. I am in a good place. I’ve stopped therapy for the moment as we found I had nothing more to work on currently. Do I have bad days? Yes, as does everyone. Do my negative thinking patterns still occur? Yes, but I recognise them and have techniques to use when this happens. Will I ever go back to therapy? Most likely. Life events could cause a surge in my symptoms, or I may simply feel the need. I am definitely not ruling it out. I am living with BPD, and I’m doing okay. I’m not like other people who don’t have a personality disorder or mental illness. I have to check in with myself more often and take things easier; I’m more sensitive and react to smaller things. But I am doing what I want to be doing, and I finally feel awake.
Welcome to Symptoms of Living! A place where I like to relieve myself of the barrage of thoughts and ideas filling my mind. Here I'll take a look at various topics, from books to BPD, series to self-harm, there's nothing that we can't, and shouldn't, talk about.
Having struggled with mental illness since the age of 15, one of the hardest parts was how alone I felt in it. While mental illness is beginning to be discussed more openly, and featured in the media, I still think there is room for improvement. So whether it is mental illness or merely mental health, a bad day or a bad year, let's make this a place to approach it and strip it back. Everyone has their own symptoms of living, and you certainly won't be the only one with it.
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