For many years after borderline personality disorder was first defined in 1938, the conventional wisdom among mental health providers was that BPD was a permanent condition. The poor response by patients to existing psychotherapies and medications created a belief that the disorder was incurable.

Then, in 1975, psychiatrist John Gunderson of McLean Hospital in Massachusetts published a research paper on BPD that explained the disorder more precisely and how it might be treated more effectively . That work helped convince the American Psychiatric Association to include Borderline Personality Disorder in the 1980 edition of the APA Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, the information ‘bible’ for professionals treating people with mental health problems.

Over the next three decades, advances in research and clinical practices, including new psychotherapies and medications, have dispelled the notion that BPD is untreatable. One of the more notable studies, conducted by Dr. Mary Zanarini and colleagues at McLean, followed 290 women for 10 years after their hospitalization and treatment for BPD and found that:

• 86% of the women had stopped meeting criteria for BPD for at least four years
• 50% recovered completely – no longer meeting BPD criteria and having good social and work functioning

The point is that although many people with BPD struggle for a long time, BPD is not a hopeless condition and many people can and do recover.

Perry Hoffman, PhD, Director of the National Education Alliance for Borderline Personality Disorder, and Krissy, a young woman who is in recovery from BPD, relate their professional and personal experiences.


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