We have seen from numerous other articles that I have published on this site that those individuals who have suffered significant and protracted childhood trauma are at greatly elevated risk of developing borderline personality disorder (BPD) compared to those who were fortunate enough to experience relatively stable and secure childhoods.
We have also seen how devastating to a person’s life living with BPD can be (indeed, research suggests that approximately one in ten sufferers of the condition will end up dying by suicide due to the psychological agony the condition can give rise to, and far more than one in ten sufferers will attempt suicide).
However, more positively, a study carried out by Zanarini et al., 2012, suggests a very significant proportion of BPD sufferers achieve long-term remission or even full recovery.
The study spanned 10 years and started off with 290 participants, all of whom had received a BPD diagnosis. At the end of the ten year period, there remained 249 participants because :
- 12 had committed suicide
- 7 had died of other causes
- 9 withdrew from the study
- 13 could not be traced
RESULTS IN TERMS OF NUMBERS ACHIEVING REMISSION OR FULL RECOVERY :
Out of the remaining 249 participants :
- 93% ACHIEVED REMISSION LASTING AT LEAST 2 YEARS
- 86% ACHIEVED REMISSION LASTING AT LEAST 4 YEARS
- 50% ACHIEVED FULL RECOVERY
(N.B. For the purposes of the study, ‘FULL RECOVERY’ was defined as BOTH remission of symptoms AND the ability to function socially and vocationally. To be considered to have achieved the ability to function socially, the minimum requirement was that the individual should have at least one emotionally sustainable relationship‘ with a non-family member. To be considered to have achieved the ability to function vocationally, the individual needed to demonstrate the ability to work full-time in a competent and consistent manner).
VARIATION IN REMISSION RATES FOR DIFFERENT SYMPTOMS OF BPD:
According to Zanarini, the symptoms of BPD that remit most quickly are self-harm and suicidal ideation (which standard treatments for BPD tend to be particularly focused upon) whereas problems with anger and abandonment issues are least likely to remit (Zanarini speculates that persistent anger and abandonment issues may be attributable to ingrained temperamental difficulties and that it is the persistence of these which prevent proper social and vocational functioning, thus precluding full recovery in about [according to this study’s criteria] about half of all cases).
Nevertheless, the fact that, according to this study, many can recover fully from BPD and many more can achieve significant and long-lasting remission from symptoms is extremely encouraging.
David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE)