While there are no FDA-approved medications for borderline personality disorder (BPD), many people with BPD are prescribed psychoactive medication to treat their symptoms. But what common BPD medication side effects do you need to watch for?
BPD medication side effects are different depending on the type of medication you are prescribed. Here are some common side effects for each of the classes of medication that are used to treat BPD symptoms. Remember that not all drugs in each class will have these specific side effects, so to learn more about your medication, search in the About.com Drugs A-Z database.
Antidepressant Medication Side Effects
There are four major types of antidepressants that are commonly prescribed today: selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), tricyclics, monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), and serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs). Side effects for antidepressants can vary depending on the type of antidepressant you are taking; however, some common side effects can include:
- Decreased appetite
- Sexual Dysfunction
- Weight gain
There are also antidepressant medications that don't fall into the types listed above, but are commonly used. These medications may have different mechanisms of action and side effects. Examples of some of these medications include Wellbutrin (bupropion) and Remeron (mirtazapine).
Mood Stabilizer Medication Side Effects
Many people with BPD are prescribed a mood stabilizing medication to reduce emotional instability. Lithium carbonate is one type of mood stabilizer that can be prescribed for BPD. An additional class of medications, the anticonvulsants, can also have mood stabilizing effects.
Lithium carbonate can cause a number of mild and more serious side effects. A small sampling of these side effects includes:
- Gastrointestinal distress
- Weight gain
- Tremors (shaking)
Anticonvulsants can also have a number of side effects, which can vary depending on which anticonvulsant you are taking. A few of the possible side effects of anticonvulsants include:
- Gastrointestinal complaints
- Weight gain
It's important to remember that not all anticonvulsants may lead to the above side effects. For more information on the specific side effects of the anticonvulsant you are taking, search for your medication on Drugs A-Z.
Antipsychotic Medication Side Effects
While BPD is not a psychotic disorder, medications that were originally designed to treat psychotic symptoms have been shown to reduce some symptoms of BPD. There are two main classes of antipsychotics: the typical and atypical antipsychotics, which tend to have different side effect profiles (although side effects always depend on the specific medication you are taking).
The side effects of antipsychotics can range from mild to potentially life threatening. Just a few of the side effects include:
Anti-Anxiety Medication Side Effects
Some people with BPD experience a variety of anxiety symptoms. For these individuals, anti-anxiety (or anxiolytic) medication may be helpful.
Side effects of anti-anxiety medications can include:
- mental or physical "slowness"
- Impaired coordination
- Memory problems
BPD Medication Side Effects: Talk to Your Doctor
If you think your medications may be causing you troubling side effects, talk to your doctor right away. Sometimes your doctor can alter the way you take the medication in order to reduce side effects. Or, a different medication (even within the same class) may have less risk of a particular side effect you are experiencing, so there may be a better choice for you.
The most important thing to remember is to speak with your physician before you change or discontinue your medication use, since changing your dosage abruptly can cause serious complications.
American Psychiatric Association. "Practice Guidelines for the Treatment of Patients with Borderline Personality Disorder." American Journal of Psychiatry, 158: 1-52, October 2001.
Albers LJ, Hahn RK, & Reist C. Handbook of Psychiatric Drugs, Current Clinical Publishing Strategies, 2008.