Is it possible for individuals to suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)? Are you struggling to help a family member find relief to psychological and physical symptoms of PTSD and or BPD?
To answer the first question, it is possible for a person to have both PTSD and BPD, this is what is called a “co-occurrence.”
Although these co-occurring psychological disorders can be difficult to discern, it is important to know what they entail, how to differentiate between them, and what treatments are available.
Both PTSD and BPD have been found to stem from traumatic events in a person’s life. Usually, these traumatic events involve extreme and prolonged, or long term, stress. In fact, for most people, BPD is caused by childhood trauma, which could also cause PTSD and its symptoms. Individuals diagnosed with both BPD and PTSD have reported childhood trauma; whereas individuals with PTSD usually report a general traumatic event(s) in their life. This could be one way to differentiate between the two.
To explain the co-occurrence, professionals may rely on several explanations or theories, but they all depend on the individual. Some experts believe that due to childhood abuse PTSD and BPD have a reciprocal relationship, and it is also possible that symptoms in PTSD may be aggravating several symptoms in BPD. The emotional dysregulation in an individual with BPD may provoke social avoidance and mistrust in a person with PTSD. In another example, a person who suffers from PTSD may feel extreme guilt and loneliness that may lead to non-suicidal self-injuries (NSSI) or suicide. Also, a person experiencing impulsivity and unstable relationships could have a higher risk of traumatic events, due to promiscuity or binge-drinking, for example.
As stated above, symptoms of BPD and PTSD may overlap, but it’s also important to note that PTSD may also be associated with other disorders, not just BPD.
In the 5th edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V), BPD is referred to as a personality disorder, whereas PTSD is referred to as an anxiety disorder. BPD is a complex psychological disorder which causes emotional dysregulation and impulsive behaviors, unstable or risky relationships, intense mood swings, paranoia, feelings of emptiness, and self-harm. It should also be noted that compulsive behaviors include: promiscuity, substance abuse, reckless driving and binge eating.
Our understanding of PTSD has come a long way and there are a number of effective treatments. Treatments for these disorders may be similar and for this reason, it is important to seek a mental health professional who will have further information about diagnosing and treatment trajectories. Treatments such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) are common and well respected in the counseling and mental health community. Lastly, it should be mentioned that only a mental health professional may provide a diagnosis.
Written by Beth Surya, CPC Student Intern at Red Rock Counseling
Harned, M. S., & Korslund, K. E. (2015). Treating PTSD and borderline personality disorder. In Evidence-Based Treatments for Trauma-Related Psychological Disorders (pp. 331-346). Springer, Cham.
Tull, M. (2019, March 13). Symptoms and Diagnosis of PTSD With Borderline Personality Disorder. Retrieved from https://www.verywellmind.com/having-both-ptsd-and-borderline-personality-disorder-2797510