Thursday, May 17, 2012

Does Borderline Personality Disorder improve with Age?

Does BPD ever get better? Will everything always be the devastation and earth shattering crisis that it seemed to be in my teens and 20’s?
This is your brain on therapy.    This is your brain on its own.
Any Questions?
Yes, it does/can get better. No, things do not always have to be this way. This is based entirely on the individual though. 
I’ve received correspondence from many people in their 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s that still suffer with the more intense problems of Borderline Personality Disorder. These are often people that haven’t received any help, sufficient treatment, or had trouble acquiring any kind of treatment or support at all.
From my experience I can’t say that Borderline Personality Disorder will just spontaneously get better on its own. Over time the severity of symptoms is likely to diminish but they may not go away entirely. I think this is due, in part, to life experience. When a person reaches a certain age, by virtue of experience and having lived through so many situations they can recognize that all the traumatic feelings that they experience are feelings they’ve had before, and despite how they feel, see the pattern that things don’t turn out as terribly as they feared, or that they are in fact, capable of coping with the results of what do happen.
Then there’s also the fact that the human body and psyche can only handle so much. It can only deal with so much constant bombardment of adrenaline boosting anxiety and pain before it starts to wear down. Or build up a tolerance. When you’ve been exposed to something for so long, the body adapts. It’s a basic principle of existence. Adapt or die.
Constantly fighting the pain, tears, and trauma is exhausting. Eventually the body builds up a little tolerance to all the things that create such distress and while things may still cause anxiety and panic, the intensity of those emotions no longer reaches the same heights. The body, the mind, the spirit… gets tired. And tougher.
Like scar tissue for the mind. It’s not to say that the pain won’t eventually come through, but it doesn’t penetrate quite as easily. Which still doesn’t sound incredibly encouraging.
However!  That’s the theory for those with BPD that have never accepted or found support or tried to work through the disordered thinking that we have to deal with. The odds of having your Borderline Personality Disorder improve rises drastically and dramatically when you are able to admit there is a problem, seek help, support, and/or therapy, and actively work to tame the wild beast that is the  Borderline Personality. 
You don’t have to tell me that this is easier said than done. You don’t have to tell me that there are times when therapy feels futile and it seems like nothing will ever improve. Trust me, I’ve been there. I still have those days. But those feelings pass. You’re kind of on this journey with me. I still have my bad days. I have a lot of my bad days. But I have many more good days as well. Days without panic, without anxiety, without depression. Days with happiness! Or just contentment. Those feelings are so foreign to me that it’s hard for me to recognize them at first. By the simple fact that I have had days like that, days where my world wasn’t shrouded in darkness, proves to me that even though things may not be perfect, things most certainly can get better.
The choice is yours. That’s the important thing to remember. Blaming our parents, blaming our exes, blaming the world around us, regardless of whether or not our circumstances are our fault, does not help. I certainly blamed my Evil-Ex for the years of trauma and unhappiness I had to deal with when I was with him. But blaming him isn’t going to make my situation better. Blaming him isn’t going to suddenly make him take it all back and try to fix my life for me. That’s never going to happen. It wasn’t fair, but life usually isn’t. The only one that can decide to make my life better, is me. It sucks that things have to be so hard. It’s a shitty hand to be dealt, but it’s the only hand we have. We can let the murk mire us in thoughts of self-pity, blame, and loathing… perpetuating a cycle of dismal depression and anxiety, or we can decide to make a change.
In time, things may get a little better on their own, but frankly, I’m sick of waiting, and I don’t have a lot of faith that the world is suddenly going to smile on me and decide that I’ve dealt with enough shit for one person already. Borderline Personality Disorder can absolutely improve with age, but the amount of improvement is directly proportional to the amount of effort you are willing to put forth.
I’ve seen  a lot of “studies” and read a lot of testimony from therapists and social workers that say in X amount of years they’ve never seen improvement for BPD. There are a lot of reasons for this, including the fact that these people probably were not skilled or trained in the very recent developments that create real change for those with Borderline Personality Disorder. Therapists/clinicians are people too, and certain types of people are simply not equipped to deal with someone that can be more difficult to pinpoint their problems. That’s why we have specialized therapy now. Major, MAJOR, strides have been made in therapy specifically meant for us. Don’t let these limited perspectives discourage you. They usually don’t have the kind of knowledge or experience to give an inclusive opinion.

The other thing that I’ve noticed people focus on is the distinction between what improves. Many say the ‘symptoms’ of BPD often improve; the self-harm, the suicidal ideation, the paranoia, impulsivity… but how about the instability in relationships? That’s a different kind of symptom. That first group of symptoms are internal to the one person suffering with BPD. However, relationships take two. It seems more broadly agreed upon while the individuals symptoms may improve, things like abandonment  and dependency issues are longer lasting. Again, this is all dependent on the individual, what kind of help they seek, and how much effort they put into their own recovery.
I can’t promise that all symptoms of BPD will eventually go away. I can’t promise that everything will one day be healed and no longer any issue at all, even with therapy and dedication. I can say that I am entirely optimistic that these things can all become manageable and not the monsters we know them to be.
BPD is not something that is going to get better in days, weeks or months. Hell, even years may be an estimate that is too conservative. I’m going on a year and a half of intense therapy and medication and I’m far from ‘recovered’, but my Therapist tells me every week that she can see improvements. What’s more though, is I FEEL better.
Without acknowledging the issue that is BPD there may be little to no improvement for decades. Even with active acknowledgement and intense effort improvement can take years. I don’t mean to be discouraging, but I do mean to be realistic. You know me. I don’t sugar coat anything. That’s not why I do this. Think about this: In a world where it is now common to live into our 80’s and 90’s, isn’t taking a year or two to really focus on ourselves, worth it? If we can have 40, 50, 60 years of living that is more content and happy than what we currently know, isn’t the long term pay off worth the struggle and introspection? 
Taking care of our mental health is no different than taking care of our physical health. If you eat nothing but junk food, load up on soda, and smoke 2 packs of cigarettes a day your body is going to be pissed and reward you with a heart attack by the time you’re 40. If you eat healthy, exercise, get a good amount of sleep and don’t abuse your body… in other words; work on taking care of yourself, your odds of living a long and productive life vastly improve.
Whether Borderline Personality Disorder improves or worsens with age, is up to you.


  1. Great writeup and I agree, it depends on the person. To some, they learn how to handle their disorder as they get older. To others, they get worse. Though, I will have to say, I don't know anyone in their 50s/60s with the disorder, so maybe they get better at hiding it with age?

    1. Learning to mask it better could also be a thought.

      Definitely depends on the person. Some people their issues might compound, all the trauma just keeps building up and gets worse. People become set in their ways as they age and it's hard to pull themselves out of it.

      It's why I think awareness is so important. The earlier we can understand what is happening, the sooner we can start to fight it.

  2. I love you. I know I must sound like a psychopath. Believe me, i've been through farms. You're pretty pervasive, you've come a long way. Your words are like cinder blocks in reality. I'm pretty drunk right now... that's the only way I can hurt myself. But you know that. You might think that this is indecisive or that i'm conspiring. I love your blog. My boyfriend likes your page too. He's a thrill artist. I harm myself by starving myself I don't even realize that i'm doing it until a couple of days later. And then I look at my arms and even though I haven't done damage to them I think about how close I am, you see. There's not a lot of hope.

    1. ::smiles:: Not a psychopath at all. I'm glad I can provide a solid support for you. As long as there's some hope, it can grow. Sometimes it takes hitting bottom to get the footing and motivation we need to pull ourselves out of the darkness. That's what got me.

      Do you know what triggers you? Instead of starving or drinking are there things you and he could do together to direct that energy in a more constructive way?

  3. Hello

    Thank you for your post. My Mum is an un-treated Borderline Individual who has mellowed with age. What worries me is that most of the time she feels nothing - she puts this down to her feelings being almost so burned over time that she simply finds it hard to feel anything. She still drinks at different levels which has also dulled her sense of feeling........ Hope that this makes sense. I never want to be someone who can't feel anything part of my Avoidant Personality Disorder can leave me feeling numb to everything around me - I would honestly prefer to feel everything even if it does cause me great suffering. I am learning to manage both sides of me and that makes living with who I am easier. My Step-Father is dying at present and Mum seems numb to that - no her fault she has reasons for being this way but I worry so. I know that her grief may hit her it it's full force after he has passed and probably by surprise........ Hard to get across what I can see in Mum...... I find myself searching for the right words. It is somewhat like when nerve endings have been destroyed leaving the person unable to feel anything in that area. This is my Mum and it breaks my heart to see her unable to participate in not only the sorrow of life but the joy.......xo

    1. I know exactly what you mean. Going numb is a defense mechanism. It's a trauma response to having dealt with so many overwhelming emotions and situations. Once you deal with so much, your emotional system becomes overloaded, and sort of short circuits. I lived like this for a very long time. Just going through the motions of my every day life, not feeling or being connected to anything around me. Like a shell of who I know I should be but don't know how to find.

      I believe as you did, that it would be better to feel everything, even the pain, than to be numb. To an extent I still agree with this. If you can't feel the bad, you can't work through it to get back to the good. The mass of devastation that it can bring though is often like drowning in a tidal wave.

      Learning to manage both sides is exactly the hope. You sound like you care so much for your mom. Is she in therapy? Grief is such a difficult thing to deal with. Such a difficult thing. I wish there was something I could do to help, but your presence and your love are probably the greatest comforts she can have.

  4. I am 29 and I feel like I have improved greatly. At times I think "omg I HATE that guy" but realize minutes later that hed simply annoyed me! Lol. I no longer feel so depressed or suicidal, but relationships are out of the question for the time being. Plus I really do believe most men arent that great anyway, regardless of whether I am normal or not... My self esteem isnt much of an issue anymore because I happen to be a very beautiful woman. I make a living being arm candy for wealthy men. What I do have issues with is figuring out what else I could do with my life, its like I cant find an identity outside of that. Seeing these men has been an ego boost and a source of comfort, albeit an artificial one. At the end of the day, while some may judge me, I believe I have come a long way. I cant be expected to live like everyone else when I have lived through tragedies all my life. My birth mother is very sweet and my only source of support. Everyone else isnt worth a thing to me. I dont even think they want to know the real me, no. They just want to see the gorgeous, sexy and vivacious part of me, always up for a good cocktail or a party, dressed impeccably, my dresses hugging every curve of my hourglass voluptuousness. A passionate lover. They dont want to know that I hurt inside, because that would inconvenience them. That would be no fun for them. So I deal with it on my own, because I am all Ive got. I feel like I have so much in common with the late Marylin Monroe, that she is plastered in various parts of my apartment and even my car. But I refuse to have the same outcome. I guess Im just rambling but yes we certainly do get better with age and determination and I wish that for you and every person with bpd. We will all progress at a different pace. Good luck to all:)

    1. This is my first time on this page, it's reassuring to read these things. Not because it gives me hope, being a borderline is full of hopelessness, but because it makes me feel less alone. I agree that time teaches me to numb myself I'm afraid of drugs and alcohol, so I numb. And I can't feel the joy i use to. But I would rather feel numb than pain and rage. I'm no longer the life of the party. I hippie someday I will be again. Thanks for sharing

  5. BPD sufferers have diminished symptoms between 35-40-ish...BECAUSE...the extreme emotionally volatile lifestyle before that CAUSES cortisol to go high. GOOGLE: high cortisol-amydala-hippocampus-dementia. After years of high cortisol...the adrenals (above the kidneys) wear out. NOW...cortisol...the stress hormone THAT: suppresses immune function, reduces inflammation, tightens all muscles not in motion, increases blood pressure, reduces digestion, creates hyper-alertness etc (all about getting away from T-Rex)...takes a NOSEDIVE...and the opposite starts (which is usually where immune system meets chronic inflammation...autoimmune disorders start...about the age of 35-40 ish depending on how quickly a sufferer has chewed up their bio-clock. And all those physiological symptoms begin to come one after the other, seemingly without end.

    Google and get information. BPD symptoms in the first half of life (high cortisol) die out due to exhaustion in the second half...and a new host of different symptoms arise-usually leaving the bpd sufferer chronically obsessiing about their health/aging issues.

    To believe that "once you get past midlife (comes early for BPDs) your symptoms will diminish" is setting such people up for a true horror in the second half of their life. This is the half where payment comes due for the first half. Do not believe otherwise. The quicker one lessens the abuse on your body in the first half, the less your symptoms (payment) in the second half.

    1. Wow, I had to read this 3 times for it to sink in. I'm 39 and have suffered from chronic joint inflammation, severe muscle pain/ weakness, digestive problems, crippling memory loss, odd autoimmune-esk issues and a host of other medical maladies for over 2 years.

      In the first year I saw countless Drs. and had bunches of tests done but no one and nothing ever pointed to a definitive reason. Every Dr. just gave some vague B.S. diagnosis and tossed an Rx at me, blamed my Diabetes or said it was all in my head (was diagnosed w/ manic depression @ 15) so I quit playing Doc Doc Goose and basically stopped worrying... K, I really just resigned myself to or ignored it.

      Anyhow, 6 months ago I remembered the 2nd half (did someone say repressed memory? (-; { ) of my initial psychological diagnosis from age 15. It, of course, was BPD.

      I've not been to see any Drs. except my primary care & Ob. since my BPD revelation nor have I told them of what I've remembered. Mostly because they were two of the many who suggested a possible psychosomatic cause which honestly just pissed me off because that's all I've heard from everyone for 25 years and I'm sick to frickin death of being treated like an illness and not a person. :-O Lil ranting there, sorry.

      What I really just wanted to say, after all this blah blah blah, was Thank You! The information you posted is the first glimmer of hope I've had in a very long time. Sounds odd that such negative, scary news can bring happy hopeful tears to someone's eyes doesn't it? I've found that in life even an answer you don't want to hear is better then none at all.

      Thanks again! I should make an appt. w/ my primary Dr. to discuss this huh? Damn! guess this means she was right all along, it really was all in my head! :-P

  6. My partner is BPD - complex B, narcissistic and avoidant, we have been together for 3 years and I love him very much however his jealousy is intense to the point that I am not allowed to touch another man or look like I'm having too much of a good time with him because that will trigger a mass eruption in him and then I won't stop hearing about it for ever at each disappointing event thereafter. I have seen and battled with his symptoms not knowing what was wrong with him for 2 years and felt literally as though I was inside an insane world. He wants to marry me and from what I see we are inseparable and our connection appears to be a very all consuming one. He is trying to treat himself with books and is convinced that he is already doing most of the DBT but the truth is I haven't seen much of a change in his reactions and his triggers. The instant he perceives anything negative he literally turns into a different person and a very hateful mean person steps in lashing out at me for not loving him enough, or taking care of him or having his back because that is what partners who love each other do. I'm afraid that once I marry him he will actually get worse. When he is lucid and regulated he is the most rational person I've ever met and he often sees the errors of his dysregulation and that is where contradiction walks in the door. I live two lives with him and it is very much a love hate Love. I love him but I hate the person who is cruel, hostile and abusive. I hate the way he is so cold and punishes me by his withdrawing. He says it is only because he is processing and he needs time to get through the dysregulation. Does this ever there a hope that we can have any stability or do I have to be the target of all his issues and the thing that he takes it all out on? Will I ever be able to be myself with him?

    I ask myself these things every day and I'm not even sure anymore what I'm doing, just know that I love him and am crazy about him.

  7. I will be 40 this Oct. I am proud to say I have overcome most of my symptoms with regular therapy and medicines. Three issues I am working on these days is addiction of nicotine, self image and feeling of emptiness. Being mindful helps me keeping things in perspective like when I feel completely lonely, empty etc I experience that feeling acknowledge it and then recall it's a symptoms and nothing has really changed. It becomes easier to do my daily chores. I tell myself depression will not last forever. Also craft work , gardening and going for walk helps immensely.
    Hope this helps someone out there.
    By the way I was diagnosed when I was 3 2 yrs of age.


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