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Symptoms & Diagnosis

3 Borderline Personality Disorder Symptoms DBT Effectively Treats

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When it comes to treating Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), therapists most often turn to Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). DBT was developed as a way to help people with the disorder better manage their BPD symptoms.

The goal of Dialectical Behavior Therapy is to increase dialectical behavior patterns for the patient. Therapists who use DBT help patients develop strategies for better handling change, learn to accept disruptions in life, and find healthy ways to express their feelings.

“We’re there to meet people where they’re at and provide some balance for them in moment-to-moment interactions,” said Katherine Niemela, RN, MN, clinical director at Clearview Women’s Center in Venice Beach, Calif.

There are three Borderline Personality Disorder symptoms that Niemela said DBT treatment is especially effective in treating:

1. Splitting

People with Borderline Personality Disorder commonly experience the symptom of splitting, which means they see the world in “all or nothing” terms. When splitting occurs, people with BPD have difficulty recognizing opposing beliefs, thoughts, and feelings. Instead of seeing things as a whole, they only see things as good or bad, right or wrong.

Through the use of Dialectical Behavior Therapy, people with BPD can learn to see how things are interconnected so they can develop a more comprehensive view of themselves and the world.

“In effective Borderline Personality Disorder treatment, they learn to think in terms of, ‘Yes, and,’ instead of, ‘Yes, but,’” Niemela said. “That brings in the opposite truth.”  

2. Underdeveloped Sense of Self

People diagnosed with BPD often lack a stable identity and have never fully developed a sense of self. This results in a failure to understand a sense of being connected and a lack of trust in themselves.

“They are simply their reactive self, which isn’t reliable,” Niemela said.

Using DBT, therapists can help people with Borderline Personality Disorder to slow down and synthesize their thoughts and feelings so that they can build a “self” they can rely on. “We can help them to organize their fragmented selves,” she said.

3. Sense of Alienation and Hopelessness

A feeling of alienation and hopelessness is common in people with BPD. They often believe that they don’t deserve to feel human and experience a sense of hopelessness about themselves and their lives.

DBT can help people to engage emotionally and restore some hope into their lives.

For many people with Borderline Personality Disorder, blame and shame can interfere with their ability to improve. Therapy such as DBT can help you learn to realize that having BPD is not your fault, but that you are responsible for taking care of the disorder through a proper diagnosis and learning to control your symptoms.

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