Looking into the mind of a teenager for borderline personality disorder

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New research is focused on the mysteries of the teenage mind. Their thoughts might in fact betray more than adolescent curiosity; they could indicate mental illness. Carla Sharp, associate professor in clinical psychology and director of the Developmental Psychopathology Lab at the University of Houston has spent two years looking at borderline personality disorder traits and “hypermentalizing” in 111 teens ages 12 to 17. “Hypermentalizing” refers to excessively and inaccurately inferring and attributing thoughts and feelings in order to understand and predict another’s behavior. These inferences end up being wrong, possibly delusional.

“Why does someone with borderline personality disorder key a car, if doing so will not lead to good consequences? What compels her to make that decision?” Sharp inquires. “I am trying to understand the de3velopment of the disorder and what happens in the brain, and what happens in the minds of these children as they develop to put them on a different trajectory compared to their peers.”

Her results will be used to improve intervention, treatment and identification of borderline personality disorders in adolescents. Sometimes intervention could be as simple as asking a person to stick to the facts and pull back on the hypermentalizing.

“Borderline personality disorder is a condition in which people have long-term patterns of unstable or turbulent emotions about themselves and others,” Sharp explain. “These inner experiences often cause them to take impulsive actions and have chaotic relationships. . . Clinicians gave been reluctant to diagnose borderline personality disorder in adolescence because there is the notion that personality is not fully developed in childhood and adolescence.”

Her research however shows that teens do have reliable patterns of interaction with others.

“Teens don’t wake up and have a personality disorder on the first day of their 19th year, so there must be some precursors to the disorders,” Sharp emphasized. She is attempting to assess the symptoms before the full blown disease takes affect.

Source: American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, Medical News Today


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