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The National Institute of Mental Health archives materials that are over 4 years old and no longer being updated. The content on this page is provided for historical reference purposes only and may not reflect current knowledge or information.

Borderline Personality Disorder

Recently, the National Institute of Mental Health hosted an event that focused on Borderline Personality Disorder. Featured speakers included BPD researcher Dr. Marsha Linehan as well as Amanda Wang, founder of RethinkBPD.


Announcer: The National Institute of Mental Health, in Bethesda, was the site of heavily attended presentation on the symptoms and treatment for Borderline Personality Disorder- or BPD. Perhaps as many as 18 million Americans suffer from BPD. But on this day, the message included effective treatment methods and data that suggests a significant rate of remission- perhaps as high as 84-percent. Among those who spoke at NIMH was Amanda Wang, founder of the support group RethinkBPD. She spoke candidly about her own struggles with the disorder…

Amanda Wang: "I have been there, too, wondering what happens when you don’t know how to love yourself. What happens when ordinary objects become weapons and subway tracks lure you into salvation? What happens when four glasses of whiskey are the only way you know how to sleep and your waking days are spent hiding in bathroom stalls creating nooses out of belts? To my family, to my friends, to you, to those I cherish, those who were there when I could not love myself, I thank you for loving me anyway. After 15 years of therapy and medications there in the psychiatry unit of a New York City hospital, I received a diagnosis I’ve never heard before. Out of the 9 symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder, I had 8 of them, and it was only after receiving treatment specific to BPD that I began to learn how to live."

Announcer: The featured speaker was Dr. Marsha Linehan, a Professor of Psychology and Director of the Behavioral Research and Therapy Clinics at the University of Washington in Seattle. Some 30 years ago, Dr. Linehan developed a revolutionary form of therapy for BPD called Dialectical Behavioral Therapy- DBT for short…

Dr. Marsha Linehan: Well, the basic premises is that it’s founded on a base of cognitive behavior therapy and it stays up to date with the research on cognitive behavior therapy and then what it added which wasn’t there is the 1970s and 80s when I was developing but is there now is added- a strong emphasis… not only on change but on acceptance to balance change. So, it’s a principle based treatment with protocols that incorporates all the way through mindfulness, acceptance and change.

Announcer: Symptoms of BPD include intense anger, unstable relationship with other, recurrent self harm and suicide…

Dr. Thomas Insel: "When you get a sense of what this costs individuals and families and society more generally, it is just a remarkably serious illness- one for which the term personality disorder doesn’t really do justice."

Announcer: NIMH-funded research into BPD and the work of investigators like Marsha Linehan have shed new light on treatment of the disorder….

Dr. Marsha Linehan: "Someone said to me, Marsha your job is to give us hope so I’m going to give you hope because I’m not alone anymore, I was for years. The only person doing treatment research on Borderline Personality Disorder and most of my life the only person doing it on suicidal behavior, but now we have managed to get other people out there doing data, there is mentalization treatment, all these young people are doing things, so there is a lot of hope."

Announcer: To find out more about Borderline Personality Disorder, research and treatment options visit the NIMH website.