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Can Borderline Personality Disorder Be Diagnosed in Middle Age?

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BPD diagnosis middle ageBorderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is most commonly diagnosed when a person is in their 20s or early 30s, when the symptoms of BPD are most severe. Though the severity of BPD symptoms diminishes with age, it is possible to get a BPD diagnosis when you are older.    

“BPD can be diagnosed any time in adulthood,” says Max K. Shapey, LCSW, in Evanston, Ill.“I have certainly diagnosed clients with BPD in the age range of 45 to 60 who haven’t had that diagnosis before.” 

Can You Outgrow BPD? 

You can’t naturally outgrow Borderline Personality Disorder. However, it’s observed that some of the symptoms of the psychiatric disorder become less severe over time. The cause for why this happens is unknown. Here are some reasons why experts think this happens:  

Burn out: People with Borderline Personality Disorder often benefit from the natural mellowing that occurs as one grows older. For example, traits of BPD such as impulsivity and aggression tend to follow a downward slope with age, even in the general population. Similarly, these symptoms lessen in individuals suffering from BPD. This can sometimes lead people to believe that a person has recovered from their BPD.

Learning: While some people will learn to mitigate their Borderline Personality Disorder symptoms by undergoing BPD treatment, many will just learn to work their way around their disorder. They identify situations that bring out the worst in them and begin to avoid them. For example, a woman who has seen many of her relationships ruined because of her psychiatric disorder may stop dating and decide never to marry. A need for employment also forces some individuals with BPD to exert control over their symptoms.

Under-diagnosis/Misdiagnosis: Individuals with Borderline Personality Disorder may be unlikely to enter BPD treatment because of the stigma attached to the disorder, or because they don’t believe there is anything wrong with them. 

Misdiagnosis is also a factor. “There are many people who are misdiagnosed as Bipolar [Disorder] when in fact they are BPD. They share some attributes, and for those clinicians who follow a recipe-book style of diagnostic analysis, they are more inclined to jump for the more familiar — and more easily treated — diagnosis of Bipolar,” says Shapey. 

Because some people are misdiagnosed and some are never diagnosed, they will continue to bear the burden of BPD into middle age. 

The Road to Recovery  

Even when someone is diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder in middle age, there is hope for recovery. However, it may be more difficult to treat BPD as you get older. 

“The younger adult with BPD may be more flexible, better able to engage in therapy, and make change; or the root causes of their disorder may be more recent in memory and therefore they may be more resistant to change,” Shapey says. “The older adult may have behaviors that are more entrenched.”  

Borderline Personality Disorder treatment is the only way maladaptive traits can be eliminated. So, as difficult as it may be to treat BPD later in life, you should not give up on BPD treatment. It’s your way of reclaiming a normal and functional life – no matter what age you are.

4 Comments

  1. Pingback: How to do school when you have Borderline Personality Disorder/are Insanely Depressed: an autobiography – s3xandculture

  2. I’m constantly constantly looking for the reason ‘I am the way I am.’ I’ve suffered all my adult life w/depression, anxiety, low self esteem, feelings of rejection, disapproval from family of origin, etc. I’m 61 yrs. Old an do have a life to live….but I’m not living, I’m existing. I could go on w/ many more symptoms. I want to find,someday, what is REALLY wrong with me before my life is over. That’s why I’m reading this and other articles. There has just got to be more to life than what I am experiencing, and if it is me, and chances are it is, I need to get fixing it.

  3. I have never been diagnosed with bpd, however I have so many markers to assess myself. I am 60yrs old and am living a very lonely life. I do not have friends and no social life. I would love to have a signifigant other in my life. I don’t go out and I know I will never be able to meet anyone unless I do. This is the best and calmest I have ever felt. I know there is no cure but feel as if my reclusive life is why I have this calmness right now. I live in Richmond,Va.and would like to know of any studies or groups that may help me.Thank you, A.Hudson

  4. I’ve never been diagnosed with BPD although I relate to the symptoms my psychologist does not think I have it. He also said that people with BPD dont generally function all their lives and then present to services in crisis in their thirties. The thing is I havent functioned really I’ve always been suicidal and felt empty it’s just I went to school, Uni and then work with those feelings of never really belonging and my friend recently referred me when i walked out of a job. Pretty tough feeling this way. I can really relate to Alice and Bev

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