Addressing Borderline Personality Disorder in Adolescents

Available with English captions and subtitles in Spanish.

Adolescence is often marked by intense emotions, and it’s not unusual for young people to experience mood swings or act impulsively.

Typically, these patterns are dismissed as part of growing up, but sometimes they’re actually signs of a complex, frequently misunderstood mental health condition known as borderline personality disorder, or BPD. And while it might be difficult to recognize the distinction, doing so can make all the difference for a struggling child or teen in need of professional treatment.

So just what does emerging BPD look like in young people? How is it diagnosed and effectively treated? And what can loved ones do to support someone living with the disorder?

Audience Questions

Wendy P. Bamatter, PhD, provides an overview of borderline personality disorder and its treatment, offers tips for identifying key BPD signs and symptoms, and answers audience questions about helping a child or teen navigate the condition.

  • What is borderline personality disorder (BPD)?
  • Historically speaking, how new is the BPD diagnosis, itself?
  • What are the five areas of dysregulation often associated with BPD?
  • What kinds of relationships exist between these areas of dysregulation?
  • How common is BPD?
  • Is BPD hereditary? And if a parent has BPD, is it possible to prevent the disorder in their children if they learn skills early?
  • Are there specific risk factors involved with BPD? Are certain groups more at risk than others for developing the disorder?
  • How can one distinguish between BPD in adolescence and typical adolescence, which is also commonly characterized by emotional dysregulation, risk-taking behaviors, volatility, and relationships, etc.?
  • At what young age can BPD be diagnosed?
  • What is recommended for parents who want to proceed with BPD treatment but face practitioners who believe that an adolescent cannot be diagnosed with BPD?
  • What should we know about the diagnostic assessment tools used by professionals to diagnose BPD?
  • Are there particular disorders that can be misconstrued as BPD or vice versa?
  • What happens when someone has BPD and a co-occurring disorder? How does a clinician go about treating both?
  • Beyond heritability, what are some other possible causes of BPD?
  • Is dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) the gold standard for treating BPD? How does it work?
  • What can clinicians who work with patients living with BPD do to manage burnout?
  • What can parents do when their teenager or young adult with BPD adamantly refuses to engage in treatment?
  • Are there any gender differences in BPD?
  • Can someone outgrow BPD as they mature and learn more social norms?
  • What triggers a person with BPD? Are there things that parents should or should not say to their child with BPD?
  • How do parents go about finding effective care for adolescents with BPD?
  • What should educators know in terms of BPD warning signs to watch for in their classrooms and what to do if they spot them?
  • Can you speak to the hope that is afforded through BPD treatment and the success stories that you’ve seen through your work?

The information discussed is intended to be educational and should not be used as a substitute for guidance provided by your health care provider. Please consult with your treatment team before making any changes to your care plan.


About Wendy P. Bamatter, PhD

Wendy P. Bamatter, PhD, is a licensed clinical psychologist specializing in dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) for adolescents and young adults. In addition to working with individuals struggling with pervasive emotion dysregulation and high-risk behaviors, Dr. Bamatter is also committed to providing gender-affirming care to transgender and non-binary individuals. She also has extensive training in delivering culturally sensitive individual and family therapy in Spanish.

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