Borderline Personality Disorder, Childhood Sexual Abuse, and Suicidal Behavior

SHIRT & TIE [small] (final)(This is the second in the series linking BPD with Suicidal Behavior)

The DSM 4 lists “recurrent suicidal behavior, gestures, or threats, or self-mutilating behavior” under symptom 5 for Borderline Personality Disorder; however it is listed as a separate category under Axis 6 in the DSM 5. Granted, suicidal behavior does indeed merit a separate category; however, we should be aware that people with BPD are at higher risk for suicide attempts.

Research suggests that suicidal behavior is a consistent possible threat when combined with BPD, PTSD, Clinical Depression, and Bipolar Disorder; however, it would appear that people with BPD are at a greater risk. In a study by Yen et al[1] involving 621 patients with a variety of psychological disorders, they concluded that only BPD and Childhood sexual abuse predicted suicidal behavior. The risk of adult suicidal behavior in BPD was increased by antisocial traits, severity of BPD, hopelessness, or comorbid major depressive episode. Other studies indicate that there is a definite correlation between suicide attempts and some BPD personality traits such as poor or no sense of self, hopelessness, and impulsivity.

Today, we want to look at the other aspect of the Yen et al study, namely the relationship between BPD, childhood sexual abuse, and suicidal behavior. Even though Childhood sexual abuse is not listed as a symptom, it is definitely related to suicidal behavior when combined with other BPD symptoms. Soloff et al.[2] in a study of 61 criteria-defined BPD patients concluded that with the occurrence and severity of childhood sexual abuse, patients with BPD were over 10 times more likely to attempt suicide. The study accounted for other variables such as neglect and other types of childhood trauma. It was definitely sexual abuse that seemed to be the most important determining factor.

It would appear that the risk for suicidal behavior is somehow related to negative coping mechanisms involved in BPD and that these symptoms are common in people who have suffered from childhood sexual abuse. If childhood trauma is treated and handled wisely and compassionately, the child may be able to learn to deal with the trauma and live a healthy and successful life. However, if they also have, or develop, other BPD personality traits, it can lead to self-doubt, self-blame, self-loathing and hopelessness, all symptoms of BPD and potential precursors  to suicidal behavior.

Just about everyone I know with BPD has entertained thoughts of suicide sometimes in their lives. When we are looking at diagnoses of BPD, we cannot overlook the possibility of suicidal behavior.  However, if the BPD symptoms also include childhood sexual abuse,  extra precautions need to be put in place. We can explore these possibilities as we go through the process of mental and emotional healing.

My five suggestions for bisexuals with BPD:

  1. If we ourselves have been diagnosed with BPD, and we have experienced childhood sexual abuse, we must be honest with ourselves to see if we have latent suicidal thoughts that could come to the fore if our life circumstances deteriorate.
  2. We need to build a safety net that will serve as a buffer between suicidal thoughts and suicidal attempts. We can share these thoughts with friends and loved ones on a regular basis.
  3. If our friends or loved ones demonstrate  symptoms of BPD, they are at a very high risk for suicidal behavior. We need to support them in any way we can.
  4. We should explore their history with them in a caring and loving manner and make sure they are not entertaining suicidal thoughts. If they are, we can help them build a safety net of people they love and trust. We let these people know that our loved one is at risk and together we set up a support schedule and set of activities to help them get through the rough times.
  5. If our loved one has experienced sexual abuse  and is still exhibiting symptoms of BPD, they will probably need professional help to deal with the issues involved. We can get them to commit to seeking help and then arrange for professional intervention.
[1] Yen, Shirley; Shea, Tracy M.; Sanislow, Charles A.; Grilo, Carlos M.; Skodol, Andrew E.; Gunderson, John G.; McClashan, Thomas H.; Zenarini Mary C.; and Morey, Leslie C.. Borderline Personality Disorder Criteria Associated With Prospectively Observed Suicidal Behavior. The American Journal of Psychiatry. 2004.
[2] Soloff, Paul H.; Lynch, Kevin J.; and Kelly, Thomas M.. Childhood Abuse as a Risk Factor For Suicidal Behavior in Borderline Personality Disorder. Journal of Personality Disorders. June 2002 .
Read More: https://guilfordjournals.com/doi/abs/10.1521/pedi.16.3.201.22542

 

 

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