When treating any personality disorder, such as Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), common sense would suggest that initiating treatment as soon as possible would likely improve one’s chances of lasting recovery.
But because individuals with BPD exhibit instability in many areas of their lives, it is often difficult to diagnose the disorder, especially since BPD symptoms can mimic those of other disorders (such as Bipolar Disorder). While this potential confusion between disorders may delay the diagnosis of BPD, the importance of accurately identifying the underlying psychiatric issues supersedes any inclination to reach a diagnosis quickly.
While mental health professionals are determined to get it right when it comes to identifying whether an individual has BPD, they also must keep in mind a simple chronological factor – the age of the patient. Clinicians and therapists agree that BPD cannot formally be diagnosed in children and that an individual must reach adulthood before they can officially be diagnosed with BPD.
That is because many of the symptoms of BPD, such as impulsivity, identity issues, and drastic emotional swings, are quite typical among adolescents. Any parent, youth counselor, or teacher would readily confirm that if these were the factors clinicians used to determine a BPD diagnosis, a large number of teenagers would be prime candidates for the disorder.
Obviously, a focused, professional assessment is essential to determine whether the apparent symptoms are evidence of a genuine personality disorder or merely an example of typical adolescent behavior that may resolve over time. Only when patients reach adulthood does the persistence of the symptoms of BPD, unmitigated by time and maturity, strongly indicate a potential diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder. It is at this point that a serious psychological analysis and diagnosis can be undertaken.
Ideally, a clinician or therapist should know the individual’s emotional and psychological history before making a diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder. While it is important to keep in mind that childhood behaviors such as emotional instability, self-injury, and chaotic interpersonal relationships do not predetermine that someone will have BPD, it doesn’t mean these symptoms should be dismissed.
Catching BPD early can reduce a lot of pain and trauma for someone with Borderline Personality Disorder and his or her family.