EMDR Therapy for Borderline Personality Disorder
Updated: Sep 11, 2022
One of the onsets of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is a traumatic childhood experience and then a distressing life event. Individuals with BPD experience emotional neglect, harsh parenting or abusive caregivers, which leads to attachment trauma. The pain of their attachment trauma is so intense that individuals with BPD often believe they are “unworthy” or “not good enough to be loved” because they blame themselves for the emotional abandonment. The self-blame intensifies if the individual with BPD experiences other forms of trauma, such as bullying or rejection by friends or by significant authority figures. The childhood fear of being abandoned often manifests in the individual’s adult relationship. They are afraid that their partner or loved ones will leave them, and so they try to prevent it by acting in a manners that can seem scrutinizing or demanding, leading to frequent tension and challenges in maintaining stable relationships. Because of it, people often describe individuals with BPD as too emotional or demanding. In reality, individuals with BPD can form loving relationships when they learn to regulate their emotional intensity.
As individuals with BPD are survivors of childhood physical, psychological or emotional neglect, they may benefit from consulting trauma therapists with experience in treating those with the disorder. One researched and validated psychotherapy model for helping people with BPD is the Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy. Therapists around the world have successfully used EMDR to help individuals with BPD overcome their painful experiences and develop adaptive coping mechanisms leading to a more positive image of themselves.
EMDR therapy creates new neural pathways associated with traumatic memories, lessening their intensity over time. During an EMDR session, the EMDR therapist uses guided bilateral eye movements. through tapping or the use of a device. This process helps the client access the memories of the traumatic life events that led to the onset of BPD, and the current triggers for these memories. EMDR therapists help clients identify their emotions (e.g., fear or anger) and sensations (e.g., bodily reactions) associated with the traumatic memory. The processing helps decrease negative cognition and increases the sense of self-worth.
Numerous studies have shown the effectiveness of EMDR therapy in treating trauma and other mental health challenges (such as depression, anxiety and grief) and helping clients with self-harming behaviours, relational problems, rigid core beliefs and emotional dysregulation. EMDR therapists may be integrated with other therapy to help the individual with BPD more effectively. The length of EMDR treatment depends on the severity of the experiences, symptoms, current trauma as well as the availability of the support systems. EMDR treatment may range from 25 sessions or more. However, some individuals with BPD reported becoming more emotionally stable after just several sessions.
EMDR processing of the traumatic memories can ultimately support individuals with BPD to develop the capacity for stable relationships. It is effective in helping gain insight into what led to traumatic experiences and how to respond to the distress and intense emotions appropriately.
Restoring Peace Counselling & Consultancy provides EMDR Therapy for BPD and other mental health challenges. For more information, please visit www.restoringpeace.com.sg or Whatsapp at +65 8889 1848.
Keywords: Singapore, mental health clinic, therapy, counselling, therapist, EMDR, borderline personality disorder, treatment