Making Sense of Borderline Personality Disorder

After the developer of Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), Dr. Marsha Linehan, acknowledged her own struggle with BPD in an article in the New York Times in 2011, she brought greater attention and understanding to what is endured by people who have this diagnosis.  When a patient is challenging and resistant to therapists’ suggestions, they are often labeled as having BPD. This stigma teaches a person to think of themselves as a hopeless victim, with inescapable character traits that make them feel angry, unlovable, empty, and helpless.

I personally don’t like the diagnosis of BPD because of the negative connotation the label suggests.  Instead, I prefer to view this as a struggle with emotion regulation, hypersensitivity, and lack of skillfulness in dealing with inner and outer personal struggles.  As Linehan argues, a more accurate name for this condition is “emotion dysregulation disorder.”

Furthermore, there is HOPE!  Dialectical Behavior Therapy is one of the most well researched treatments in the world today, and it reveals that those suffering from “emotion dysregulation disorder” benefit from techniques derived from a number of different areas of psychology, including cognitive-behavioral therapy.  DBT teaches mindfulness which includes:

  • Building awareness of emotions, thoughts, and behaviors
  • Relaxation and breathing exercises
  • Understanding about the function of emotions
  • How to be interpersonal effective
  • And ways to cope in distressing situations

Dr. Blaise Aguirre, a renowned child and adolescent psychiatrist who practices DBT and psychopharmacology, contributes to this powerful video. He is the medical director of 3East at Harvard, an affiliate of McLean Hospital, which has a residential DBT program for young women exhibiting borderline personality traits.

Watch the video for some incredible insights on those who struggle with BPD, or “emotion dysregulation disorder.”

Dr. Michele Lob PsyD., MFT, CEDS
Executive Director DBT Center of Orange County

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