Teens With Borderline Personality Disorder and Behavioral Therapy Techniques You Can Try At Home


With teens who have borderline personality disorder, threats of self-harm due to fears of abandonment are very common. This article will help you understand borderline personality disorder and ways to help your teen with this disorder by using behavior modification therapy techniques.

While the techniques that we cover in this article are very useful, they can’t replace the therapy that your teen needs. Borderline personality disorder, in particular, can have very damaging effects on a teen’s life if it is left untreated. Reach out to us at Liahona Treatment Center, where we can help your troubled boy with borderline personality disorder. At our Center, we have fully-licensed mental health professionals who would be able to help your teen with the recovery and management of this disorder.

What is Borderline Personality Disorder?

If you’ve ever heard of statements like, “You can’t leave me” or “I can’t live without you,” then you’ve probably shrugged off those comments as an exaggeration. However, there is an intense fear of real or perceived abandonment with teenagers with borderline personality disorder. So, when your teen with borderline personality disorder says things like the above, they do mean it.

According to the DSM-5, borderline personality disorder is a personality disorder found in 1.6%-5.9% of the population. To be diagnosed with this disorder, troubled teens need to struggle with at least 5 of these symptoms and for a very long period of time:

  • Feeling empty
  • Having an intense fear of being abandoned
  • Experience paranoia or dissociation
  • Frequently talking about or acting on suicidal thoughts includes self-harming behaviors
  • Difficulties with interpersonal relationships
  • Constantly changing or lack of identity
  • Being emotionally reactive
  • Being impulsive
  • Struggling with behaviors that cause self-harm like gambling, substance abuse, and overeating

The struggles of having untreated Borderline Personality Disorder

Having untreated borderline personality disorder can present a lot of challenges in your teen’s life. Individuals with borderline personality disorder often struggle with academic performance because of some of their symptoms.
For example:

  • Your teen turns in an essay. The teacher writes a comment about needing to explain things better. Your teen tells you that the teacher hates her. This goes back to one of the symptoms of this disorder: devaluing or idealizing others and themselves. What this means is that either someone is perfect or they’re not good.
  • You talk to your teen about the importance of saving money and then notice that they’re using the money they make from their job to buy stuff they don’t need. This might be a sign of impulsivity and lack of judgment, which is associated with this disorder.

While there are many examples of how symptoms of this disorder can affect your teen, the most concerning sign is the tendency to self-harm. If you suspect that your teen is self-harming or is suicidal, contact a mental health professional who can help them.

Behavioral Modification Therapy: teaching Your troubled teen The skills that they need

The great news is that borderline personality disorder can be treated and managed despite the challenges associated with it. Therapies such as behavior modification therapy can significantly reduce some of the symptoms of this disorder.

Behavior modification therapy is a type of therapy that believes in three things:
1. that behavior is learned by an individual within a certain environment,

2. that behavior can be changed, and

3. that positive and negative reinforcements are needed.

Let’s go over what each of these principles means.

Behavior is learned

What this means is that children learn behaviors from the environment that’s around them. For example, if a child sees a parent writing a to-do list every day to stay organized, the child learns that being organized is a good thing.

Likewise, if a child sees a parent yelling to communicate in challenging situations, the child learns that the only way to be heard is by yelling. As you can tell from these examples, the behavior is learned through words and actions.

Behavior can be changed

Many people love behavior modification therapy because it strongly supports the idea that behaviors can be changed. Meaning that if something can be learned, it can also be unlearned.

Positive and negative reinforcement can change behaviors

Some ways to change behavior besides changing the environment is through positive and negative reinforcement. For example, if a child is continuously made fun of for liking to read, then this is a negative form of reinforcement that teaches the child that reading can lead to being ostracized and disliked. Likewise, if a child is praised for reading, it teaches them that reading is a good thing.

How to help your teen with behavioral therapy techniques

To help your teen with borderline personality disorder, here are some behavioral therapy techniques that you can try at home.

1. Talk to your teen about tapping into their wise mind

Many teens with borderline personality disorder are aware of how to tap into their emotions and feelings. In psychology, you can say that teens with this disorder can tap into their emotional mind. The reasonable mind, on the other hand, is based on facts and logic.

To avoid being impulsive and following their emotions, your teen would need to tap into their wise mind, which is a combination of their emotional mind and reasonable mind. To do this, they need to ask themselves when a thought of doing something occurs to them, “Am I tapping into my emotional mind, wise mind, or reasonable mind?”

The goal is to tap into their wise mind through awareness.

2. Let them (sometimes) live with the consequences of their actions

Teens with borderline personality disorder might sometimes lash out in anger and then want to apologize for their actions. They may also do things that harm their relationship with others due to their fears of being abandoned. Instead of rescuing them from their actions, sometimes allow them to live with the consequences of their actions. In behavior modification therapy, this is a type of negative reinforcement.

For example, your teen yells at their sibling for a comment their sibling made. Rather than trying to repair their relationship, allow your teen to apologize and mend the situation themselves. This will give them the skills they need while also teaching them that their actions have consequences.

More techniques can be used by the right person

While there are more techniques you can use with your child, it’s best used by a mental health professional who knows the nuances and intricacies of these techniques. Reach out to us at Liahona Treatment Center to find out how you can help our teen with borderline personality disorder.

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