Trust is key in treating borderline personality disorder


It’s not just about genes

Many in the psychiatric and psychological communities tend to develop a very nihilistic view of BPD patients, observed Dr. Cummings. “They’ll say: ‘Oh, well, it’s hopeless. There’s nothing that can be done.’ That isn’t true,” he said.

Epidemiologic studies of these individuals have shown that many of these patients no longer meet the diagnostic criteria for BPD by the time they reach middle age. This means they get better over time, noted Dr. Cummings.

Dr. Plakun’s hope is that the field will evolve in a direction that recognizes the importance of psychosocial treatments like psychotherapy, in addition to biomedical treatments. The drive to medicate still exists, which can contribute to underdiagnosis and undertreatment of BPD, he said. “Although there are manualized, evidence-based treatments, few clinicians learn even one of these for BPD, not to mention those for other disorders.”

In 1996, Francis S. Collins, MD, PhD, the current director of the National Institutes of Health, predicted that the decoding of the human genome would transform treatment of medical and mental disorders [and] “that we would discover the ways in which genes equal disease,” said Dr. Plakun. What the science has since shown, is genes by environmental interaction lead to disease and health.

Nature and nurture both matter. “And I don’t think we’re paying enough attention to the nurture side,” Dr. Plakun said.

The solution is a return to a biopsychosocial model, recognizing that psychotherapy is an essential part of treatment of BPD and other conditions, and an essential clinician skill, he said.

Dr. Oldham is coeditor of the “Textbook of Personality Disorders”, 3rd edition (Washington: American Psychiatric Association Publishing, 2021).Dr. Choi-Kain is coeditor with Dr. Gunderson of “Applications of Good Psychiatric Management for Borderline Personality Disorder: A Practical Guide” (Washington: American Psychiatric Association Publishing, 2019).

Dr. Cummings and Dr. Plakun had no disclosures.


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