Therapy That Includes Mindfulness For Teen Borderline Personality Disorder

Mindfulness is the practice of becoming conscious of your internal and external environment. It is a mental state achieved by focusing on the present moment, while acknowledging and accepting the existing feelings, thoughts, bodily sensations, and surrounding activity. Today, it is often used as a therapeutic practice among therapists and psychologists.

There is a unique form of therapy includes mindfulness designed especially for those with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). Dialectical Behavioral Therapy is a successful treatment method, originally developed by Marsha Linehan, PhD, of the Department of Psychology at the University of Washington.  Historically, Borderline Personality Disorder was seen as a diagnosis that was difficult to treat effectively. However, DBT has had considerable successes. It was developed to treat the more severe, self-debilitating, and suicidal behaviors of BPD.

BPD is a disorder characterized by swing of moods between mania and depression. Euphoria, elation, racing thoughts, irritability, and substance use are common symptoms of mania. Some teenagers will also engage in other forms of self-harm, such as cutting or risky behavior as a way to take away their emotional pain and accelerate the highs. When feeling low or depressed, the symptoms of depression to look for are decreased energy, insomnia, fatigue, agitation, and suicidal thoughts.

Adolescents with Borderline Personality Disorder tend to display the following patterns:

  • Avoiding real or imagined abandonment resulting from a belief in unworthiness or self-rejection
  • Having relationships that are unstable with significant idealization or devaluing
  • An inability to maintain a stable sense of self, with tendencies of self-loathing, self-hatred, and an inability to be who they are among friends.
  • Dangerous and impulsive behavior, such as drug use, frequent experiences of unsafe sex, or running away from home
  • Self-harming behavior, such as cutting
  • Mood swings from depressive symptoms to those of mania.
  • Chronically feeling empty, lonely, or bored and often compensated by impulsivity and dangerous behavior
  • Inability to regulate feelings of anger
  • Signs of dissociation with reality

What’s unique about Dialectical Behavioral Therapy is that it incorporates mindfulness in its approach. In fact, mindfulness is one of the core concepts of the therapy and is a foundation upon which other skills are taught. Mindfulness facilitates a teen’s ability to accept and tolerate the difficult and powerful emotions that often accompany BPD. Although the concept of mindfulness and meditative exercises are based upon Buddhist principles, there are no religious or metaphysical concepts that are taught to clients. Dialectical Behavioral Therapy helps a client expand their capacity to pay attention, nonjudgmentally, to the present moment, and experience their emotions fully with a sense of acceptance.

Generally, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy is a form of behavioral therapy that teaches adolescents the skills they need to move closer to their life goals and assists them in integrating those skills into everyday life. The therapy is a compassionate form of treatment method that brings meaning and purpose into a teen’s life. The many dysfunctional symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder make it difficult for a teen to function normally in school, home, and work. Dialectical Behavioral Therapy is meant to address those issues by teaching skills to cope with them and replace the self-defeating, dysfunctional coping mechanisms.

Research indicates that teens participating in Dialectical Behavioral Therapy were half as likely to make a suicide attempt and required fewer hospitalizations. They were also less likely to drop out of treatment. Dialectical Behavioral Therapy has been successful for many years. Like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, it has been proven to be effective and is considered to be what’s known an “evidence-based” treatment method, meaning that evidence exists for its effectiveness in treatment.

Teens with BPD should know that there is a therapy designed specifically for this disorder. By participating in its many parts – individual therapy, group therapy, and core skills group – teens with BPD can live meaningful and fulfilling lives.

Further Reading