Borderline Personality Disorder


Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is considered a serious mental illness due to the fact that self-harm and suicide are major effects. More than three-fourths of individuals who suffer from BPD engage in self-harming behaviors. About 80% have attempted suicide and 8% to 10% die from suicide. Around 5.9% of adults, or 14 million Americans, experience borderline personality disorder at some point in their life.

Symptoms of BPD

  • Extreme or loose emotions and thoughts
  • Acts of impulsivity or reckless behavior
  • Unstable relationships
  • Fear of or unable to tolerate being alone
  • Quick shifts in your opinion of yourself
  • Losing contact with reality
  • Extreme anger
  • Strong mood swings
  • Self-harming behavior
  • Having a hard time trusting

As a result of BPD, individuals’ interests and values can change rapidly. They look at things in extremes, such as something that is either all good or all bad. Also, their opinions of others can change fast.

Unfortunately, BPD is easily misdiagnosed because it occurs alongside other mental health disorders, such as depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and substance abuse. BPD is usually mistaken for major depressive disorder and bipolar disorder, which can delay or prevent recovery. Just like depression and bipolar disorder, BPD involves mood instability. However, with BPD, a person’s mood changes over a short period of time, whereas with bipolar disorder, a person’s mood can last for weeks or months at a time.

Risk Factors

It is not entirely clear as to what the cause is of borderline personality disorder. However, research insinuates that genetics, brain structure and function, and environmental, cultural, and social factors have a part in it, or increase the risk of experiencing BPD.

  • Family History. Individuals who have an immediate family member with BPD could have a higher risk of getting it themselves.
  • Brain Factors. Research has shown that an individual with BPD can have structural and functional changes in the brain. The areas that control impulses and emotional regulation are affected the most. However, it is unknown as to whether these changes are risk factors for BPD or caused by the disorder.
  • Environmental, Cultural, and Structural Factors. Individuals with BPD have stated that they have experienced trauma in their lives, such as abuse or adversity during their childhood. Others could have been exposed to unstable, invalidating relationships and hostile conflicts.

These factors might increase a person’s risk but it does not mean they will develop a borderline personality disorder. On the other hand, there may be individuals without these risk but will still develop BPD.


The first choice of treatment for borderline personality disorder is usually talking therapy. In most cases, this would involve one to two sessions a week with a mental health counselor. In order for talk therapy to be effective, the person must feel comfortable with and trust their therapist. Not all symptoms are easy to treat. The hardest symptoms to change are the fear that others might abandon you, unstable relationships, or feelings of emptiness. It has been shown that treatment for BPD is more effective in decreasing the symptoms of anger, suicide attempts, and self-harm. It has also been shown to improve over-all functioning and social adjustment.

Most Common Treatments

  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT): focuses on paying attention to the present emotion and teaches skills to control intense emotions, decrease self-harming behaviors, manage distress, and improve relationships. DBT was created specifically to treat BPD and includes individual therapy sessions, skills training in a group setting, and coaching over the phone when needed. DBT has been shown to be the most effective treatment for BPD.
  • Mentalization-based Therapy (MBT): a form of talk therapy that helps individuals see and understand what others’ thoughts and feelings are.
  • Transference-focused Therapy (TFP): helps individuals understand their emotions and interpersonal issues through the relationship between that person and their therapist. Individuals then apply the insights they learned to other situations.
  • Medications: although medicine cannot cure BPD, they can help treat other conditions that coincide with BPD such as depression and anxiety.
  • Self-care Activities: Good self-care such as regular exercise, getting good sleep, eating a nutritious diet, taking medications as prescribed, and healthy stress management can help decrease the symptoms of BPD, including mood swings, impulsive behavior, and irritability.

Treating BPD with TMS

Although Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) isn’t a common treatment for BPD at this time, TMS therapy can help treat the BPD symptom of depression. Many individuals who suffer from BPD also suffer from depression. TMS targets certain brain regions with magnetic pulses and brings those affected regions back to a normal level of activity. In mood disorders such as depression, the amygdala, which processes emotions, becomes overactive. Brain scans have shown that those with BPD have small amygdalas, and the smaller this area is, the more active it is. BPD also affects the prefrontal cortexes, which allow people to reason, and causes them to be inactive. These differences explain why BPD causes individuals to act impulsively and become depressed. Brain-imaging studies have shown that TMS therapy could treat depressive symptoms as well as other symptoms of BPD.

If you or a loved one is suffering from borderline personality disorder, the staff at GatewayTMS is here to help. We understand that the road to good health can be challenging and overwhelming. Call us today to set up an appointment so our team of professionals can help you get on track to recovery.