Deep in the Mind of a Teenager

Borderline personality disorder clues

(RxWiki News) Are your teens acting out and doing things that aren’t making sense? It might be a borderline personality disorder - this can be serious and needs medical treatment.

Borderline personality disorder is defined as people who have long-term unstable or chaotic emotions or behaviors about themselves or others, which causes them to act out and make impulsive decisions. It can be difficult to diagnose at a young age, but researchers believe there might be traits that suggest the disorder.

"If your child is overly angry and instable, look into borderline personality disorder."

Lead author, Carla Sharp, Ph.D., an associate professor and director of the Developmental Psychopathology Lab in clinical psychology at the University of Houston, believes she found a link between “hypermentalizing” and borderline personality disorder (BPD) traits.

Mentalizing refers to the ability to assume and attribute thoughts and feelings to understand what another person is trying to say. When a person hypermentalizes, they may be misinterpreting what another person’s saying which causes them to become upset.

The two-year study included 111 inpatients between the ages of twelve and seventeen. The researchers used a new tool called the Movie for the Assessment of Cognition (MASC), which required the participants to watch a fifteen minute clip. The characters were introduced before the movie began. Then the researchers asked the participants to report how the characters might be feeling and thinking. The answers were multiple choice answers that were categorized as no mentalizing, less mentalizing, hypermentalizing or accurate mentalizing.

The study found 23 percent of the participants met criteria for BPD and those who did meet the criteria answered more questions more often with hypermentalizing responses. The researchers also found that hypermentalizing affected their emotional regulation, which made them upset from misunderstanding people’s thoughts.

This study shows hypermentalizing could be an early sign of BPD and treatment and prevention methods could focus on minimizing these thoughts to avoid BPD, Sharp says.

A lot of the times BPD is confused with depression, bipolar disorder or conduct disorder and this could leave the individual and their family members lost and confused, Sharp adds. When they can put a name to all their symptoms, they often feel relieved because they can finally start getting the right treatment, Sharp adds.

The next step is to use brain imaging to understand what’s going on, she says.

The research will be published in the June edition of the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry as "Theory of Mind and Emotion Regulation Difficulties in Adolescents with Borderline Traits".

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Review Date: 
September 30, 2011
Last Updated:
July 5, 2013