For many years after borderline personality disorder was first described in 1938, the conventional wisdom among mental health providers was that BPD was likely a permanent condition. The poor response to traditional psychotherapy and medications by people thought to have BPD led to the belief that the disorder was incurable. Then, in 1975 Doctor John Gunderson and Margaret Singer of McLean Hospital in Massachusetts published a research paper on BPD that would define the disorder and identify more precisely the difficulties it can cause in people. Their work helped convince the American Psychiatric Association in 1980 to include Borderline Personality Disorder in the APA Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, the ‘bible’ for recognizing and treating BPD by mental health providers.
Subsequent advances in research and clinical practices over the next 20 years have dispelled the notion that BPD is untreatable. In fact, there is every reason to be confident that people who are diagnosed with BPD can achieve recovery and go on to lead productive lives.
One of the longest studies about BPD and recovery was published in 2010. Dr. Mary Zanarini and her colleagues at McLean Hospital followed up with nearly 300 female patients who were treated at McLean for BPD. The team found that 10 years after being discharged from the hospital 86% of the women no longer met criteria for a BPD diagnosis and had maintained that for at least 4 years.
Additionally, 50% of the women reported having productive social and work experiences.
Notably, while many of the women continued to receive treatment, there were others who did not.
The bottom line is that contrary to popular beliefs, people can and do recover from BPD and go on to lead meaningful lives. Dr.Perry Hoffman, founder and president of the National Education Alliance for Borderline Personality Disorder talks about BPD and recovery.
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