For years, mental health experts have been hesitant to diagnose Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) in adolescents. That because they believe BPD was a mental health “death sentence” for patients as there was no clear treatment.

However, clinical psychologist Prof. Carla Sharp of the University of Houston begs to differ and advises not to ignore BPD in teenagers.

Prof. Sharp, who published her new research in the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, said, “Like adult BPD, adolescent BPD appears to be not as intractable and treatment-resistant as previously thought. That means we should not shy away from identifying BPD in adolescents and we shouldn’t shy away from treating it.”

BPD is a mental health disorder that impacts the way you think and feels about yourself and others, causing problems functioning in everyday life. It includes self-image issues, difficulty managing emotions and behavior, and a pattern of unstable relationships, according to Mayo Clinic.

People with BPD may experience intense episodes of anger, depression, and anxiety that can last from a few hours to days, according to Science Daily.

Prof. Sharp said BPD is treatable and therapy helps. She said early detection and intervention of BP in adolescents is of critical importance.

She said, “We ignore Borderline Personality Disorder at our peril because compared with other mental disorders, BPD is among the leading causes of suicidal behaviors and self-harm in young people.”

Prof. Sharp examined data collected from 500 adolescent inpatients and measured their BPD symptoms for over a period of 18 months.

Early intervention saw a significant downward trend of BPD features, with a remarkable reduction in BPD symptomology reported for adults with BPD. Interestingly, Prof. Sharp found that the teens were not undergoing specialized treatment for BPD and yet they still improved, according to Science Daily.

Prof. Sharp said, “It sends a message to clinicians: ‘Don’t put your head in the sand!’ If the pathology is there, diagnose it and treat it with your best evidence-based treatment.”

Currently, the standard therapies for BPD in adults and adolescents include “dialectical behavior therapy” and “mentalization-based therapy.”

She said, “Even if clinicians are not trained in those specialized treatments, it would be ethically appropriate to make use of best available scientific evidence to inform practice, consistent with practice-based evidence recommendations from the American Psychological Association.”

“Our work contributes to the growing consensus that the discrimination and stigmatization of BPD are not justified,” Prof. Sharp continued. “Instead, a clinical course very similar to adult BPD is described which highlights the potential therapeutic rewards of diagnosing and treating adolescent patients with BPD.” The article originally appeared in Science Daily.