Treatment for Adolescents With Borderline Personality Traits

Treatment for Adolescents With Borderline Personality TraitsBorderline personality disorder (BPD) is a challenging mental illness, both for the person diagnosed with it and those who love them. Many of the signs and symptoms of BPD are similar to behaviors seen in normal teenage development. 

This makes diagnosing and treating teens for BPD complicated. Many experts will give an adolescent a diagnosis of borderline personality traits instead of the full disorder so that the young person can get treatment but is not targeted with the stigma of a full diagnosis. Treatment for this complex situation is important but tricky.

What Does BPD Look Like?

People with BPD struggle to regulate their thoughts and feelings. They tend to be impulsive, act recklessly and have a hard time maintaining normal relationships. Sounds like a typical teenager, right? This is why diagnosing teens is so difficult. Sometimes the signs of BPD go away or stabilize as an adolescent matures, and giving a diagnosis of borderline personality traits makes more sense. Even for experts it can be difficult to really know if a teen has BPD. Specific signs include:

  • Intense mood swings and extreme changes in emotions
  • Extreme bouts of anger that get out of control
  • Suicidal threats or self-injury
  • Impulsive and risky behaviors that cause harm
  • Unstable and sometimes intense relationships
  • Paranoid feelings of being abandoned and desperate attempts to avoid abandonment

Outpatient Care for Borderline Personality Teens

One of the easiest and least invasive ways to treat a teen with BPD symptoms is with outpatient care. This type of treatment is often covered by insurance plans, as opposed to residential care. It also allows the adolescent to continue going to school and engaging in other normal activities. It’s less disruptive to daily life.

Outpatient care, which usually includes one or two hour-long sessions per week, is often enough to help teens with borderline personality traits but not a BPD diagnosis. Not only do teens get the help they need, but they can also carry on with life and avoid the stigma associated with being removed from school or even being hospitalized.

School-Based Therapy for Borderline Personality Teens

Another option for teens showing mild to moderate signs of BPD is to work with the school. School-based programs are common and are similar to outpatient therapy. A therapist comes to the school to work with teens either individually or in small groups. In many cases, the school will also have a resident school therapist or counselor trained in mental health care to whom the students can turn at any time of day as needed for support. School programs are helpful in that teens get access to therapy as part of their normal day. The therapist can also help assess them by observing the students in their typical school settings.

Residential Care or Hospitalization for Teens With BPD

It’s important to understand that outpatient and school-based therapy is only appropriate for certain cases of borderline personality. Teens with extreme symptoms or who are suicidal need to be placed in residential care or in a hospital for protection as well as treatment. Along with constant supervision, these facilities are equipped to treat teens with genuine cases of BPD using various types of therapy.

BPD and borderline personality traits are serious mental health concerns. Teens who exhibit signs of BPD and who are suffering because of them need some kind of treatment. For many, outpatient and school-based care are adequate and very useful. If you have a teen who’s struggling, see your doctor for a referral and to get a professional diagnosis. Only then can you help your teen begin an appropriate treatment plan.

On June 15th, 2015, posted in: Borderline Personality Disorder Research by Tags: