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Ask The Experts

Borderline Personality Disorder?

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Our 20 year-old daughter was hospitalized during her freshman year when she took a bottle of aspirin after her boyfriend from high school broke off their relationship. While she was in hospital we were told she suffered from depression, but since that time even though she’s been prescribed antidepressant medication, her functioning and her mood have deteriorated. Twice last month she went to the Emergency Department because she felt suicidal and last weekend she told us she has been using a razor to cut her arms and thighs when she gets upset. We’ve started to do some research on the internet and we think what our daughter has may not be depression, but borderline personality disorder.

How do we get her the help she needs?

Richard Hersh, M.D., Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons answers:

Borderline personality disorder is a common psychiatric syndrome which often begins during college years. Borderline personality disorder is different from depression and antidepressants often don’t address the challenging symptoms of the disorder. Unfortunately many families go for long periods knowing that their children are suffering but not able to get a diagnosis which accurately describes the difficulties they are seeing.

With your daughter’s permission it could be very helpful to ask her doctor directly if borderline personality disorder may be part of her current clinical picture. Ask about treatments specific for the disorder – what’s available in the community and who has experience treating those with this disorder. It’s important to remember that borderline personality disorder, while a serious condition, has a generally good prognosis with a number of well-studies, effective treatments available.