There is good news for parents: research is showing that the prognosis for borderline personality in teenagers is excellent. In the past, experts believed that borderline personality disorder (BPD) was a life-long disorder that was unlikely to respond to treatment. In the past two decades, though, a number of studies have shown that recovery from BPD is not only possible, but likely, especially for teens.
Borderline Personality in Teenagers — Prognosis
Teenagers with BPD show very high remission rates; studies that track kids with BPD estimate that between 66 and 85% of adolescents with BPD will no longer meet diagnostic criteria for the disorder in two years. Teens with BPD are much more likely to recover from the disorder than adults with BPD (in adults, about 35% of people with BPD will no longer meet the criteria for the disorder in two years).
It is possible that the reason that the rates of recovery from BPD are so high in teenagers is because many kids who show symptoms of BPD don’t necessarily have the disorder. Many teens demonstrate behaviors (e.g., impulsivity, aggression, mood changes) in response to stressful events or during certain developmental stages. When these have passed, the signs of BPD also reduce. This is actually an argument some experts have made against diagnosing borderline personality in adolescents. They argue that too often the symptoms are not BPD, but rather a short-lived reaction to events.
Factors Associated with Poorer Prognosis for Borderline Personality in Adolescents
While there is no way to predict whether a particular teen will recover from BPD, research has identified several factors that predict poorer prognosis (i.e., less chance of recovery). For example, research has shown that kids who show antisocial personality symptoms before age 15 are more likely to have more severe BPD later in life. In addition, there is a link between conduct disorder in adolescence and later borderline or personality disorder symptoms.
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Modestin J, Matutat B, & Würmle O. “Antecedents of Opioid Dependence and Personality Disorder: Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder and Conduct Disorder.” European Archives of Psychiatry and Clinical Neuroscience, 251:42-47, 2001.
Sharp C, & Romero C. “Borderline Personality Disorder: A Comparison Between Children And Adults.” Bulletin of the Menninger Clinic. 71:85-114, 2007.