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Borderline Personality Disorder & Criminal Behavior
by Amber Maccione
Borderline personality disorder has been reported as the one of the top disorders prison inmates are diagnosed with linking the disorder with criminal behavior (Sansone 2009). Between 25% to 50% of inmates in prison suffer from borderline personality disorder, mostly shown within females (Sansone 2009). So what is borderline personality? What causes someone to develop the disorder? Why is it linked to so many within our criminal justice system? And how can we prevent so many who suffer from borderline personality disorder from becoming another number within our prisons?
Borderline Personality Disorder
Borderline personality disorder is “a serious mental health disorder [that is] characterized by pervasive instability in moods, interpersonal relationships, self-image, and behavior” (RAINN 2009). If left untreated, the disorder can disrupt a person’s family life, career, any long-term goals, and a person’s self-identity (RAINN 2009). Someone that has borderline personality disorder tend to push others away from them. This could stem from their fear of being abandoned so they push people away as a defense mechanism to avoid the person leaving them (Mayo Clinic 2012). Adults that have borderline personality disorder suffer from intense anger, impulsive actions, and frequent mood swings (Mayo Clinic 2012).
Do you or someone you know have borderline personality disorder?
Might I Have It?
When being diagnosed by a professional to have borderline personality disorder there are some distinct things that will signal the doctor that you do have the disorder: a pattern of impulsive and risky behavior; being aware that you act in destructive ways but seem to be unable to change; wide mood swings; short intensive spurts of depression and/or anxiety; intense episodes of anger that can escalate quickly into physical fights; difficulty controlling emotions or impulse desires; suicidal behavior; feel like you are misunderstood, alone, neglected; fear of being alone or abandoned; hate yourself or are very critical of yourself (Mayo Clinic 2012). Borderline personality disorder affects how one feels about themselves, how they relate to others, and how one behaves (Mayo Clinic 2012). This leads people with borderline personality disorder to suffer from insecurities and to end relationships because they see things very black and white and tend to ignore grey areas (Mayo Clinic 2012).
A person can develop borderline personality disorder in adulthood because they were already predisposed to have it based on genetics (someone in their family such as a parent was diagnosed with it) (Mayo Clinic 2012). But environmental situations such as abuse, neglect, and separation during the young ages of childhood can cause the disorder to develop later in life (Mayo Clinic 2012).
Most of the time a person who suffers from borderline personality disorder in adulthood is because while they were a child, they were physically or sexually abused or experienced neglect (RAINN 2009 & Mayo Clinic 2012). Because of this fact, people with borderline personality disorder can become violent people. Compared to those that have antisocial personality disorder, those with borderline personality disorder tend to commit more violent crimes (Sansone 2009) because they suffer from impulsivity, instability, aggression, and antisocial behavior (Sansone 2009). Prisons are over-represented with people with borderline personality disorder ranging from people that commit domestic violence offenses and those that commit murders (Sansone 2009).
Do I or Someone I Know Have Borderline Personality Disorder?
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Treatment for Borderline Personality Disorder
In order to prevent someone from committing a crime because of borderline personality disorder, it needs to be diagnosed early and continually treated (RAINN 2009). There are two types of treatment under psychotherapy that most doctors have seen as effective: dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) and transference-focused psychotherapy (TFP). With DBT, counseling sessions (individual, group, or phone) are used to help develop skills to help the individual control their emotions and tolerate distress in order to improve relationships they enter into (RAINN 2009). With TFP, the counseling is centered on the patient/therapist relationship where the therapist helps that patient understand his emotions and the difficulties that can arise when in a relationship with someone (RAINN 2009).
There are no medications that can cure borderline personality disorder. Patients that do suffer from the disorder though are sometimes treated with medications for specific aspects of the disorder. For example, people with borderline personality disorder tend to suffer from anxiety and depression that can lead to suicidal thoughts and actions. Therefore, a doctor may prescribe the patient with an antidepressant or anti-anxiety medication to help with that aspect (RAINN 2009). Although it doesn’t treat the whole disorder, it helps lower some of the symptoms within the disorder.
Another type of treatment that doctors will encourage their patients to do is a change in lifestyle. It is encouraged that one who suffers from borderline personality disorder take good care of their physical well-being by getting enough rest (6-7 hours of sleep, same time every day); eating a balanced diet; exercising regularly; avoid making situations that can cause them to be anxious, angry, or irritable; and avoid alcohol or drugs or any mind altering substances that a doctor has not prescribed to them (RAINN 2009).
Understanding borderline personality disorder seems to be something that is important to the criminal justice system since so many criminals seem to be diagnosed with it. If caught early and treated, we may be able to prevent someone from becoming a criminal in the first place or prevent someone from becoming a career criminal.
Mayo Clinic. (2012). “Borderline Personality Disorder.” Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/borderline-personality-disorder/DS00442
RAINN. (2009). “Borderline Personality Disorder.” Retrieved from http://rainn.org/get-info/effects-of-sexual-assault/borderline-personality-disorder
Sansone, R. & L. (2009). “Borderline Personality Disorder.” Psychiatry, MMC. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2790397/
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