Is Borderline Personality Disorder the Same as Emotional Immaturity?
When a person has Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), they have a lot of difficulty regulating their emotions. Their emotional reactions are very intense and may seem out of proportion to events that have occurred.
To outside observers, the behaviors of a person with BPD may seem to be nothing more than a lack of emotional maturity. A person who is emotionally mature typically has the ability to take what life gives them, good or bad, and deal with it. They’re able to acknowledge and accept that they can’t always have their own way. Feelings can be felt and experienced, and then let go.
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What may appear to be emotional immaturity in a person with BPD goes much deeper than that. It’s really an issue of not having the skills to deal with extremely intense emotions. Behaviors that on the surface appear to be inappropriate are efforts to regulate their emotions since they don’t have other coping skills that work as fast or as well.
Characteristics of a Person with BPD
Difficulty regulating emotions is an important characteristic of BPD. A person with this form of mental illness feels emotions very intensely and continues to feel strong emotions for an extended period of time. After an intense emotional reaction has been triggered, it’s hard for them to return to a state of calmness.
Other characteristics of BPD include:
- Unstable personal relationships
- Distorted self-image
- Intense fear of abandonment and frequent efforts to try to avoid it
- Mood swings that include anxiety, depressed mood and irritability
- Suicidal threats or actions and other type of self-harm
How a Person with BPD May Appear to Be Emotionally Immature
A person with BPD may appear to others to simply be a person whose emotional maturity has been stunted. They may have frequent and volatile mood swings, which often include trying to control the people around them. They may seem to believe the world revolves around them.
A person with BPD may appear to be emotionally immature because they often expect others to put their needs first. They’re frequently emotionally dependent on others and may appear to be trying to manipulate others to give them their way by inappropriate emotional reactions or acting out.
How BPD Goes Beyond Emotional Immaturity
A person with BPD has difficulty regulating their emotions, but not everyone who is emotionally immature has BPD. Both an emotionally immature person and a person with BPD may act in impulsive or reckless ways, and both may have dramatic mood swings.
A person with BPD has characteristics that go beyond emotional immaturity. The intense emotional reactions of a person with BPD are felt deeply, and their outbursts aren’t being done to manipulate others or to get a reaction out of them. They see things as black or white, and they are often unable to identify what emotions they’re experiencing. Their unpredictable and sometimes unreasonable behavior is triggered by an illness rather than a refusal to grow up.
Treatment of BPD
BPD is a personality disorder, which means that patterns of behavior are deeply ingrained and cause difficulty functioning in society. It was once thought of as an illness that was difficult or impossible to treat. Today, with evidence-based treatment options, it’s possible for a person with BPD to experience fewer and less volatile symptoms.
The most successful type of treatment for someone with BPD is talk therapy. Forms of talk therapy that have been shown to improve symptoms of BPD include:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy – This type of therapy can help the patient recognize negative thoughts and learn new behaviors and coping skills.
- Dialectical behavior therapy – This treatment was initially created for people with BPD, and it’s an effective form of therapy that helps to reduce treatment dropout and suicidal behavior.
- Mentalization-based therapy – This is a method of developing empathy for others and getting in touch with internal states.
The treatment process of BPD takes time and commitment to therapy. Working with a therapist who is specially trained in the treatment of BPD can lead to improved symptoms and good long-term outcomes.
If you or a loved one are struggling with BPD, depression, or anxiety, please contact us at (855) 409-0204 or submit the form below and a treatment specialist will contact you.
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Since 2004, Lori has worked with the behavioral health treatment community to bring awareness about mental health disorders and evidence-based treatments. Lori strives to help people better understand mental illness and provide support to those needing help and their families. As a mental health advocate, Lori works to be a voice for those suffering from borderline personality disorder, depression, anxiety, trauma, or any other disorder.