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Symptoms & Diagnosis

BPD Symptoms and Treatment: The Myth of Willpower

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Many people believe that people struggling with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) merely lack the willpower to overcome the behavioral and emotional problems associated with the disorder. However, this is a dangerous misconception.

Because Borderline Personality Disorder is often characterized by symptoms such as unstable interpersonal relationships, drastic mood shifts, and poor self-image, there’s a tendency for friends and family to think that all that’s really needed is a simple attitude adjustment for the BPD symptoms to go away. This point of view is unfortunate because it wrongly concludes that the behavior of people with BPD is a “choice” rather than the manifestation of symptoms caused by a complex underlying psychiatric disorder.

While many therapeutic approaches to emotional disorders such as Borderline Personality Disorder seek to instill self-control, self-awareness, and mood regulation, this should not be confused with what is commonly thought of as willpower. Mental health professionals take great care to analyze the core issues for each person who suffers from BPD and develop an individualized and holistic course of BPD treatment rather than focusing on the symptoms of the disorder alone.

Treating Borderline Personality Disorder

Clearly, efforts to treat BPD rely on a more precise modality of care than willpower alone. The truth is, people with BPD are unable to summon the requisite self-control (much less willpower) when it comes to managing their Borderline Personality Disorder symptoms.

Unfortunately, this personality disorder is so misunderstood that even well-meaning individuals fail to acknowledge it as a genuine disorder. Once this is understood, the notion of willpower as a path to recovery from BPD falls apart.  After all, no reasonable person would suggest that one can overcome other commonly accepted diseases simply by using willpower.

Many BPD patients benefit immensely from Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), along with a program of other treatment. By empowering people with BPD with the tools and a deep understanding of their disorder, a greater chance of lasting recovery is possible. An outpatient or residential BPD treatment program that incorporates DBT offers the best chance of success.

Perhaps a degree of self-control or willpower ultimately plays a part in the borderline personality individual getting better, but that is usually the result of a more comprehensive and supervised program of therapy and treatment.

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