The Science of Mindfulness for Borderline Personality Disorder

Hello Healing from BPD Community.  Please join me in welcoming guest blogger, therapist Michelle Dabach, MA, MFT of Optimum Performance Institute and the Roanne Program for young adults with Borderline Personality Disorder and BPD traits! – Debbie Corso
Mindfulness is a skill taught in Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), a modality typically used to treat young adults suffering from Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). Mindfulness is a great tool! It helps keep your mind focused, attentive, and aware. When young adults with BPD are in the midst of a crisis, everything can feel blown out of proportion, and catastrophic thinking can then take over. This may lead to unskillful behavior that they later regret.
The good news is, mindfulness can help substantially. Mindfulness skills are used to bring the sufferer back to reality – to help center one’s self and reduce or prevent catastrophic thinking. The skills encourage one to focus on paying attention, which activates the prefrontal cortex (PFC). This part of the brain doesn’t tend to work so well in BPD sufferers.  Activating it reduces the reactivity of one’s amygdala, which is responsible for fight-or-flight responses. When the PFC is activated, one of the chemicals it produces is β-endorphin, a painkilling opiate.
This leads to both a reduction in the sense of pain experienced, a reduction in breathing rate, a decrease in the sense of fear, and an increase in the experience of joy (Newberg & Iversen 2003). Mindfulness encourages the use of one’s five senses – sight, touch, smell, sound, and taste. Its pretext is that one focuses on these senses without judgment – without labeling them as good or bad.
Luckily for Optimum Performance Institute, where I work, Rebecca DeLeon, our Roanne Program Coordinator, is well-versed in DBT and Mindfulness Skills. She notes, “Incorporating the practice of mindfulness into one’s life helps promote awareness. Awareness, in turn, allows those with BPD to pause before acting impulsively, gain understanding of their thoughts and emotions, and utilize their skills to the fullest.”  (The Roanne Program is specifically designed for young adults in the developmental stages who suffer from BPD or BPD traits.)
Mindfulness is a fun exercise to try. Participants in our Roanne Program practice Mindfulness every day!
Couple that with some deep breathing and you’re well on your way to Calm City!
Sample Mindfulness Exercise
Before reading this exercise, go get something that you can eat – an M&M, a piece of fruit, something you typically enjoy. You didn’t know this would be an interactive article, did you? Don’t eat your snack! Mindfulness is about being in the here and now and really focusing on using your 5 senses.


What does your snack look like? What is your snack? What color is it? What shape is it? Do not judge it, but if a judgment does come (aw, man! It’s bruised! That’s bad!), notice the judgment and just let it go.

Hold your snack in one hand. How does it feel? Is it heavy or seemingly weightless? Is it smooth or rough? Is it hard or soft? Really take some time to acknowledge how your snack feels. Just notice it.

Now, hold your snack up to your nose. Smell it. What does it smell like? Is there a scent? Is it a pleasant scent? Again, if a judgment arises, just notice it and let it go.
Does your snack make any sound? If you were to eat it now, would it crunch? If you shake it, does it rattle?

Put your snack in your mouth. Hold it there – don’t chew yet. What do you notice? How does it feel on your tongue? Did you choose chocolate or ice cream? Is it starting to melt? Now, bite your snack. How does that feel on your teeth? Is your snack crunchy or soft? Is your snack flavorful or bland? What does your snack taste like?
This is just a basic example of mindfulness.  Think of yourself as having a mindfulness muscle. The more you practice, the stronger it gets, and the more emotionally regulated you feel.  Keep practicing, and notice how you feel.
Do you practice mindfulness in your daily life?  In what ways?
At Roanne Program, we offer compassionate, clinically sophisticated intensive residential help for young adult men and women who suffer from borderline personality disorder or BPD traits, including genetic testing to determine the best course for medications, if needed. Rather than a sterile, hospital-like environment, we offer beautiful accommodations in luxury apartments just outside of Los Angeles.  At Roanne Program, we treat the individual, not the diagnosis.  Our clinical team is made up of a diverse community of passionate, highly skilled individuals working together with you to help you find your joy and express it.   For more information on Roanne residential programs and our measures to help young adults with Borderline Personality Disorder, call us at (888) 558-0617 or click HERE to submit an online form. We’ll be in touch promptly.

Article References New Harbinger – How Mindfulness Changes Brain in BPD – Living with BPD: Mindfulness

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