Two of the primary symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) are a marked inability to regulate emotions and engaging in risky behaviors. Extreme and often overblown reactions to relatively minor incidences can illicit rage or dramatic displays of distress.
It is easy to see where this is an obvious sign of a problem in an adult, but what if your child is exhibiting these behaviors? Don’t teenagers have trouble emotionally regulating, anyway? Don’t they also often test boundaries by engaging in experimentation with sex and/or drugs?
Perhaps your child’s acting out is more than the expected growing pains brought on by hormonal changes and the trials and tribulations of adolescence. The truth is that parents know their children better than anyone else does, but understandably, you may still have doubts.
In their book “Stop Walking on Eggshells,” Randi Kreger and Paul T. Mason point out that the DSM-IV says children under 18 can be diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder if “the borderline traits have persisted for at least one year, and the behavior is not better accounted for by either a normal developmental stage, the effects of substance abuse, or a more transient condition such as depression or an eating disorder.”
So how do you support your teen when they have Borderline Personality Disorder?
Seeking BPD Treatment
If you suspect that your teenager has Borderline Personality Disorder, then ushering them into BPD treatment of some kind will be first and foremost on your mind. Seek a thorough evaluation and diagnosis and then carefully select a BPD therapist who is conversant in BPD treatment and with whom you feel comfortable. This person will help your teen navigate the first leg of a long journey to recovery, so be sure that you trust them and you’re on the same page.
When seeking BPD treatment for your teenager, familiarize yourself with the various types of BPD treatment (including Dialectical Behavior Therapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, medications, and group therapy) and be sure that your therapist has experience with BPD treatments.
Improving Communication with Your BPD Teen
Even before the process of Borderline Personality Disorder treatment is underway, you can begin to change your own reactions to your teen’s behavior and start to have more effective dialogue with your child. We all need validation and acceptance from the people in our lives, and people with BPD need this to an even greater degree. You may need to reach out to your child with BPD in ways that do not trigger their fears, but help assure them of your unconditional love. Learning validation techniques can be instrumental when it comes to improving communication.
Borderline Personality Disorder affects the entire family, so encourage everyone in your home to get on the same page by adopting new communication techniques with your BPD teen. As a parent, your other children will take their cues from you, so by example you may influence important changes in their behavior as well.
Attending family or group therapy, support groups for family members of a loved one with Borderline Personality Disorder, and BPD workshops may be excellent means of working through the difficulties together and keeping the lines of communication open. The more your teen with BPD can expect others in the home to behave consistently, the easier it will be for them to succeed in recovery.
As always, supporting your teen with Borderline Personality Disorder means letting them know that you are there for them. They may not often act as though they need or want your help or support, but know that they will appreciate your efforts in the long run.