By Dr. David Woo - February 6, 2023
Transcranial magnetic stimulation, also known as TMS, has become an increasingly popular treatment for certain mental health disorders, primarily depression. But research has shown that TMS therapy also has a positive effect on individuals with borderline personality disorder (BPD).
Symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder
Borderline personality disorder affects around 5.9% of American adults (1). This disease can result in severe symptoms that negatively affect an individual’s perception of themselves and the people around them. Symptoms of BPD usually begin to occur by early adulthood and can include:
· Problems regulating emotions
· Reckless or impulsive behavior
· Unstable relationships
· Intense, intrusive feelings of anger
· Distorted self-image
· Fear of abandonment
· Prolonged feelings of emptiness
BPD can cause extreme emotional disruption and mood swings and should be taken very seriously, as it often leads to some form of self-harm (e.g., cutting) as well as suicide (2). One problem with treating borderline personality disorder is that it is often misdiagnosed. Many BPD symptoms are identical to those of other mood disorders, like anxiety and depression.
There are a variety of treatments used for BPD, including DBT (dialectical behavior therapy), CBT (cognitive behavior therapy) and various prescription medications. TMS is also gaining traction as an effective treatment for BPD for the following reasons.
Effects of TMS on Borderline Personality Disorder
TMS (Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation) uses magnetic energy to stimulate brain cells in areas of the brain associated with mood disorders, especially those characterized by depressive symptoms. BPD sufferers often also have depression, but studies have shown that TMS can provide relief for additional symptoms specifically linked to borderline personality disorder.
The first study of TMS treatment for BPD, published in 2013, involved a 22-year-old female patient. Following the treatment, she reported reduced depressive symptoms and impulsive behavior and an increase in motivation, sociability, and emotional stability (3). A 2014 study found improved emotional stability and planning ability in a small group of BPD patients after just 10 TMS sessions (4). More recent research has demonstrated the efficacy of TMS in reducing a range of BPD symptoms, including emotional regulation, impulsivity, mood swing and depressive feelings (5,6).
How Does TMS Work?
Emotional activity in the brain is carried out via electrochemical activity through its various regions. BPD symptoms are caused by irregularities in the amygdala, which regulates emotions including fear, aggression, and threat perception. The prefrontal cortex, which we use for rational decision-making and planning for the future, can also experience abnormalities that contribute to BPD. TMS can boost activity in these affected regions, which enhances brain function and reduces BPD symptoms.
Try TMS Therapy for BPD Relief
If you’re suffering from BPD, seeking help as early as possible is important. TMS can be a great way to find relief from troubling BPD symptoms, especially if traditional treatments have proven insufficient.
To make an appointment with a licensed healthcare professional at Madison Avenue TMS & Psychiatry, contact us online or call (212) 731-2033.
- Overview of BPD. National Education Alliance for Borderline Personality Disorder. Pulication Date Unknown. https://www.borderlinepersonalitydisorder.org/what-is-bpd/bpd-overview. Accessed January 04, 2023.
- Reichl C, Kaess M. Self-harm in the context of borderline personality disorder. Curr Opin Psychol. 2021 Feb;37:139-144. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30179579/. Accessed January 04, 2023.
- Arbabi M, Hafizi S, Ansari S, Oghabian MA, Hasani N. High frequency TMS for the management of Borderline Personality Disorder: a case report. Asian J Psychiatr. 2013 Dec;6(6):614-7. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24309885/. Accessed January 04, 2023.
- Cailhol L, Roussignol B, Klein R, Bousquet B, Simonetta-Moreau M, Schmitt L, Thalamas C, Tap G, Birmes P. Borderline personality disorder and rTMS: a pilot trial. Psychiatry Res. 2014 Apr 30;216(1):155-7. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24503285/. Accessed January 04, 2023.
- Sverak, T., Linhartova, P., Fiala, A., & Kasparek, T. (2017). Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation Treating Impulsivity in Borderline Personality Disorder and Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. In (Ed.), Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation in Neuropsychiatry. IntechOpen. https://www.intechopen.com/chapters/58466. Accessed January 04, 2023.
- Reyes-López J, Ricardo-Garcell J, Armas-Castañeda G, García-Anaya M, Arango-De Montis I, González-Olvera JJ, Pellicer F. Clinical improvement in patients with borderline personality disorder after treatment with repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation: preliminary results. Braz J Psychiatry. 2018 Jan-Mar;40(1):97-104. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28614492/. Accessed January 04, 2023.