A recent study by researchers from the University of Illinois at Chicago is one of the first to identify specific adolescent factors that could lead to a diagnosis of borderline personality disorder (BPD) later in life. The research team tracked a group of over 1,400 teens aged 12-18 for five years and found common precursors that could be indicative of BPD later on.
What Is BPD?
Borderline personality disorder is a serious mental health condition characterized by behaviors and emotions best described as impulsive and unstable. Those with BPD may fear abandonment and have difficulty controlling their anger. This leads to rocky relationships with others.
Inner insecurities may cause them to take impulsive actions or do what is known as splitting – view someone as either all good or all bad. It’s not uncommon for those with BPD to resort to self-mutilation or suicide.
The key signs of borderline personality disorder are:
- Patterns of unstable and intense relationships
- Impulsive behaviors, such as spending sprees, unsafe sex, substance abuse, or reckless driving
- Feelings of emptiness and desolation
- Frequent mood swings
These signs could also indicate substance misuse or a mood disorder like bipolar disorder. Either way, seeking treatment is essential because these signs can be dangerous.
What The Study Found About BPD in Teens
Psychologist Dr. Carla Sharp of the University of Houston conducted a study to learn more about how the disorder develops over time and determine what causes children with BPD to take a different life course than others.
Specifically, Sharp and her team wanted to know why individuals with BPD would consciously take specific actions if they were aware that they would result in negative outcomes. In the study, which occurred over two years, Sharp and her colleagues examined 111 teens between the ages of 12 and 17 who were admitted for treatment to determine the relationship between BPD characteristics and the process of “hyper mentalizing.”
Mentalizing is the means by which individuals use cues and inferences to predict and interpret other people’s behavior. Sharp’s research focused on how the teen brain works and the evolution of disordered thought patterns, especially as they relate to adult personality disorder. Traditionally, BPD is not diagnosed in people under the age of 25. This is because that’s how long it takes for the adolescent brain to develop fully.
While diagnosing BPD before the brain has matured is unreasonable, Sharp believes there may be precursors of the disorder that should not be ignored. By doing so, she is confident that mental health professionals can offer better intervention and treatment methods. As part of the study, respondents were made to watch movie scenes, part of a new assessment tool called Movies for the Assessment of Cognition (MASC).
BPD in Teens and This Study
After being introduced to four different characters through photos and a 15-minute video clip, subjects were asked to assess each character’s possible thoughts and emotions. Choices included four options, and researchers categorized participants based on their responses – no mentalizing, accurate mentalization, hypermentalizing, or less mentalizing. Essentially, the adolescents with BPD (23 percent of the sample) tended to over-mentalize responses more than others.
Additionally, those with BTD were more likely to misinterpret individuals’ thoughts, which upset them and resulted in emotional disruptions. Poor emotional regulation has been tied to an escalation of BPD symptoms.
The study is pioneering in that it’s the first of its kind to provide a tangible link between BPD and the process of teen mentalization. According to Sharp, ignoring the precursors of BPD can lead to wrong diagnoses (such as bipolar disorder) and inappropriate treatment. Such oversights also lead to a lot of pain for those affected and their families.
BPD and Addiction Treatment Programs in Texas with the Right Step
At Promises Right Step, we recognize how difficult it can be to manage BPD and addictive behaviors, especially when you’re a teen. Our team of specialists is passionate about helping people like you learn to effectively manage your mental health and receive the care you need.
We provide evidence-based treatment approaches such as dialectical behavior therapy to help individuals gain control of their emotions, learn healthy coping strategies, improve relationships, and rebuild self-esteem.
For those with BPD or a dual diagnosis of BPD and addiction, our specialized program offers the flexibility needed for successful recovery. Contact us today at 17135283709 to learn more about our programs.