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Integrated Treatment for Complex PTSD and Borderline Personality Disorder

Researchers from the University of Connecticut Health Center and Elements Behavioral Health find that complex post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is not simply a subtype of borderline personality disorder (BPD). According to their recent findings, people affected by BPD often have diagnosable symptoms of complex PTSD. The latter is an unofficial but scientifically verified form of PTSD involving a significant increase in the mental health burden of damaging stress reactions. These two U.S. institutions gauged the overlap between BPD and complex PTSD in the general population and found a high amount of intersection between the two conditions. The researchers recommend treating complex PTSD and BPD together. However, they also identified clear differences between the effects of BPD and the effects of complex PTSD.

Promises Behavioral Health operates trauma and PTSD treatment centers that may also provide treatment for borderline personality disorder. Please call us at 844.875.5609 for more information on our treatment for complex PTSD and borderline personality disorder.

What Is Borderline Personality Disorder?

BPD is a relatively common but severe personality-based mental health disorder. All individuals with BPD have emotion control difficulties that substantially impair their ability to:

  • Avoid acting in reckless ways
  • Avoid highly polarized relationships with friends and loved ones
  • Keep their moods on an even keel

Among its many damaging effects, BPD is associated with a sharply increased risk of seriously contemplating suicide and making suicide attempts. Mental health professionals view the disorder as a highly dangerous condition for this and other reasons. Typically, professionals recommend immediate treatment for borderline personality disorder if possible. The acknowledged BPD rate among American adults is roughly 1.6%, but many people struggling with BPD may never receive a proper diagnosis of their condition.

What Is Complex PTSD?

PTSD is a mental health condition that typically develops in response to a single, highly traumatic event. Individuals can develop PTSD at any age, but the disorder is most likely to emerge in adulthood.

Symptoms of PTSD

All people with diagnosable PTSD have at least one symptom each that falls into four main categories:

  • Adoption of a largely negative set of emotions and beliefs
  • Avoidance of conversations or circumstances that are reminders of prior trauma
  • Inability to control the intense physical and emotional reactions that characterize the body’s “fight-or-flight” response
  • Unwanted waking or sleeping recollection of a traumatic situation or event

Since most affected individuals qualify for a traditional PTSD diagnosis, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) does not officially recognize complex PTSD as a separate mental health disorder. However, the condition is unofficially well-recognized among mental health professionals who treat PTSD and other trauma- or stress-related mental health conditions.

Symptoms of Complex PTSD

People with complex PTSD have seriously adverse stress reactions above and beyond the core symptoms of PTSD. In any given individual, these additional symptoms may include:

  • A collapse of religious or moral belief
  • A loss of identification with other human beings
  • A preoccupation with the person or persons responsible for trauma exposure
  • A strong sense of mental or physical detachment from reality

People with complex PTSD often have a history of prolonged or repeated exposure to highly traumatizing events or situations, the National Center for PTSD under the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs reports.

What Is the Overlap of BPD and Complex PTSD?

Researchers from the University of Connecticut Health Center and Elements Behavioral Health used a large-scale analysis of previous studies to explore the degree of overlap between BPD, PTSD, and complex PTSD. This project is crucial because many people now considered to be affected by complex PTSD had received a diagnosis of BPD at one point. There’s also a relatively high rate of trauma exposure in people affected by BPD.

The project concludes that BPD and complex PTSD share many features, including:

  • A loss of the ability to exercise control over shifting moods
  • A tendency to experience mental or physical detachment from reality
  • Exposure to highly traumatic circumstances, including treatment at the hands of family members and other designated caregivers

The researchers also concluded that a significant potential treatment benefit is associated with emphasizing the connections between PTSD, complex PTSD, and BPD. However, despite the extensive overlap between BPD and complex PTSD, they also believe it is inappropriate to view complex PTSD as a specific manifestation of BPD or to view a complex PTSD diagnosis as a reasonable substitute for a BPD diagnosis. The researchers also note that substantial numbers of people struggling with BPD may require treatment for borderline personality disorder that focuses on co-existing symptoms of complex PTSD.

Learn More About Promises Behavioral Health’s Trauma and PTSD Treatment Centers

Treating complex PTSD and BPD can be difficult, but professional help is available. Promises Behavioral Health offers programs and services to help you or your loved one heal from the effects of complex PTSD and BPD. Contact us today at 844.875.5609 to learn more about our treatment programs and how we can help you or your loved one start on the road to improved mental health.