Borderline Personality Disorder and Trauma

Uncategorized Jan 06, 2023

By Jamie Sedgwick, LCPC, NCC
EMDRIA Approved Consultant


Increased access to social media in recent years has meant more access to information about mental health and various diagnoses. There are pros and cons to the increased exposure, with one of the biggest drawbacks being no quality control to verify the accuracy of the information being shared. Individuals hoping to better understand themselves or a loved one may receive inaccurate or biased information.

One mental health diagnosis that has garnered a lot of social media attention is Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). This is a diagnosis that has carried a negative connotation even among medical professionals. Some even believe this diagnosis cannot be cured. As a result, many clinicians will refuse to treat BPD and attempt to refer those who have it to other clinicians.

As a clinician specializing in this disorder, I have seen a significant increase in the amount of individuals self-diagnosing and seeking treatment. Due to the negative connotation associated with the diagnosis, there is a shortage of adequately trained clinicians willing to work with individuals seeking treatment.

Whether you are someone who is wondering if you may meet the criteria or a mental health clinician hoping to learn more about the connection between BPD and Trauma, my hope is this blog will begin to provide you with accurate information about the diagnosis as well as treatment options. It is my passion to educate people seeking treatment to reduce stigmas associated with it and train clinicians to be able to confidently and comfortably provide effective treatment.

Borderline Personality Disorder Needs a New Name

I have to admit that I cringe a bit at the name of the diagnosis. This factor isn’t related to the actual diagnosis, but the misinformation that is portrayed by the name. In fact, it extends to all the “Cluster B” or Personality Disorders. The concept of a personality disorder can feel so permanent, as if something is just innately wrong with someone who meets criteria for these diagnoses. Neither of these things are true. BPD is the result of early attachment trauma, most often with primary attachment figures. The diagnosis needs a new name that accurately represents it as a result of attachment trauma.

BPD is most often recognized or self-diagnosed due to symptoms of emotional instability, maladaptive coping mechanisms, and disorganized attachment styles in relationships. This is a result of a primary attachment figure being unable to offer co-regulation opportunities, not modeling healthy emotion regulation and interpersonal skills, and neglecting a child’s emotions at critical developmental stages. Sometimes, primary attachment figures may inadvertently reinforce maladaptive emotional responses and coping mechanisms. As adults, these individuals may continue to utilize maladaptive coping mechanisms and interpersonal skills in attempts to regulate emotions and maintain relationships and, ultimately, meet criteria for a diagnosis of BPD.

The Good News

Whether you are someone who thinks you may be experiencing symptoms or a clinician hoping to gain some insight about the diagnosis, the good news is it’s 100% treatable. Let’s go over how BPD is treated.

Since this disorder is the result of attachment trauma, modalities should be considered as effective treatment options. I have effectively utilized EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) as a tool to help many individuals with a diagnosis of BPD heal from their trauma and no longer meet criteria for BPD and Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). EMDR is an 8 phase treatment model that allows enough flexibility to adapt the protocol in order to adequately prepare people with a diagnosis of BPD for trauma reprocessing. The preparation, Phase 2 of EMDR, may take a bit longer for individuals meeting criteria for BPD. This is because it will focus on establishing safety, the ability to utilize adaptive skills and building rapport within the therapeutic relationship using relational techniques. EMDR Therapy also offers advanced protocols to ensure that trauma reprocessing is successful for individuals with attachment trauma and complex trauma.

Finding or Providing Effective Treatment

If you are an individual seeking treatment for BPD, be sure to ask potential therapists if they received EMDR Basic Training through an EMDRIA Approved Provider. Additionally, inquire about their experience with Advanced EMDR Trainings and ongoing consultation with an EMDRIA Consultant.

If you are a clinician considering getting trained in EMDR to be able to provide Borderline Personality Disorder treatment, be sure to receive training through an EMDRIA Approved Provider. You should also be sure to seek out Advanced Training and participate in ongoing consultation.

Interested in EMDR training for BPD? Check out our upcoming virtual training session for n in-depth look at each phase to increase confidence and skills.

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