Borderline Personality Disorder and Hypnotherapy – A new hope for sufferers of BPD?

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It started like this. I was in the early stages of ‘going pro’ with my hypnotherapy business. I had been practising as a part time thing for some time, really as a hobby that people kept insisting on paying me for. I hadn’t planned to go professional at first but a series of unplanned events created a crossroads in my life and I chose the path I am on now.

I was doing some marketing over Facebook, promoting an event I was organising, a free hypnotherapy taster day. The idea was to get my name about and drum up a little work, see if I could make a living at it now I had decided it was more than just a hobby.

One evening while posting on several different Facebook groups I hear that ‘donk’ sound that says I have a message. I checked the message and it is from a lady I’m going to call LL.

LL was asking if I had ever heard of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). I had to admit that I had not. She explained that she had read how hypnotherapy could help, although there wasn’t much research and very few hypnotherapists working with it, so it was difficult to find someone to see.

LL had been on the waiting list for CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) for over a year. She had been told that the NHS would (eventually) pay for 10 sessions of CBT but that she may need many more than this to really get the problems sorted out. She was feeling pretty desperate to do something, anything, to try and help herself.

Research

As we all do these days, I got straight on to Google and spent a few weeks finding out everything I could about BPD (which was quite a lot) and about hypnotherapy as a treatment for BPD (which was not very much).

After giving myself the best primer I could, I managed to get at least a basic handle on the answers to basic questions like what is BPD? How did the diagnosis came about? What does a typical BPD sufferer experience? What are typical BPD symptoms? How is BPD diagnosed? What treatments are available for BPD? (Which is not many!) and which treatments are most effective? (Which is difficult to say!)

Ultimately my conclusion was that although all of these questions can be answered to some degree, this is still way under researched and we don’t really know what it is yet.

The analogy I started to use was that it’s a diagnosis of omission, like IBS – when you have a number of symptoms from a specific list and your GP cannot find out why, then they may diagnose BPD. This analogy of diagnosis by omission has proven to be quite a useful way of looking at it, but more about that later.

One name came up with regard to treating BPD through hypnotherapy and that was the name of Gary Oke, so I gave Gary a call and I couldn’t have asked for a better response.

Gary asked me a few questions about my own hypnosis practice and training, to establish my level of skill and find out how I approach hypnotherapy. Once he was satisfied that I knew enough about this type of work he was helpful way beyond any polite obligation.

He talked me through some of his experiences and approaches and encouraged me to help LL, as so few people in her position have someone to turn to. He also gave me advice about time frames, expected road blocks and possible approaches to them, and many other aspects of helping BPD sufferers through hypnotherapy; this was all invaluable advice that served me well during the subsequent sessions with LL.

Booking the first session

Once I felt I was in a position to help LL, to actually have a plan and to have a confidence in that plan, I contacted her, relayed much of what I had learned and said that we should maybe book a session.

For various reasons it took a while to happen and by the time it did happen the first session was just before Christmas. I asked LL if she would rather leave it until after the holidays as I didn’t want to lose momentum, but she was keen so we went ahead.

During that first session we looked at the problem from a birds eye view and subjectively measured which symptoms were more prevalent and which were least. I asked lots of questions and tried to get as good an understanding as possible of the problem, which is unique for every sufferer.

After talking for over an hour we did the first hypnosis session. The point of this work was to focus specifically on anxiety. Looking at BPD as a diagnosis of omission paid off here for the first time, but certainly not for the last. It allowed me to target a specific symptom that was underpinning the bigger picture.

In LL’s case (and it turns out in many other cases) anxiety is one of the major things BPD is supported and maintained by.

Helping a client with BPD to manage their anxiety can start a chain reaction, a momentum of recovery that makes every subsequent effort more effective, lifting the fear and despair of helplessness, showing the client that there is hope and there are better things ahead.

It also just so happens that helping clients with anxiety is something hypnotherapists do day in day out.

By the time I saw LL after Christmas (3 weeks later) her anxiety had improved significantly and she was keen and hugely confident in what we had started. I couldn’t have hoped for a better outcome from a single session.

The ball was well and truly rolling now…

Since then…

Obviously I can’t go into details about our sessions but over the first 2 months of the year I had a further 6 sessions with LL.

At the last session LL told me that she had made an appointment with her GP to look at coming off her anti-depressant medication. To paraphrase LL, she was only prescribed it because of the anxiety, and she no longer has that so it was time to look at ditching the medication.

We didn’t know it was to be the last appointment at that time; by circumstance we had had a 2 week break since the previous two appointments and it had gone well so we decided to have another two week break to see how it went.

I spoke to LL two weeks later and she said that she had had such a good couple of weeks that she wanted to leave it and see if she needed any more sessions at all.

It is now (at the time of writing) nearly two months since our last session. I have spoken with LL a couple of times since our last session, each time it seems she has made some further progress.

Speaking to her recently it seems things are continuing to improve, although life is still difficult sometimes and the possibility of further sessions has not been ruled out. Again to paraphrase LL, she still has dark days but she can spot them coming and has tools available to give her some degree of control over the situation.

One of the difficulties with getting over something like BPD is that all lives have ups and downs, and everyone has hard times and off days, so there is no specific point to which you can pin the label ‘cured’, and it’s difficult to know exactly when the problem is solved.

That being the case, my aim with working with LL has been that life will get progressively easier to cope with until one day BPD is difficult to diagnose, and some time later for it to no longer be an appropriate diagnosis at all.

I know LL still has some way to go, but she has come a long way in just a few months. I’m inspired by her efforts and her achievements and I feel pleased that I have helped her to turn that ship around, so that now she is pointing in the right direction I know her efforts can continue to yield positive results.

And I will be pleased to help her further, if she needs it and if I can.

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I sent LL a copy of this article for approval before I published it. It was very important to me that I get my facts straight and that LL approved of how I told the story. She very kindly wrote back approving, and asking that I add the following to the bottom of the article.

A little bit about myself. I was diagnosed with BPD in 2012 after having a breakdown, which resulted in having to leave my job on the grounds of ill health retirement.

The help I was given from the NHS was antidepressants and the hope of CBT treatment which I am still on the waiting list for.

By the time of Christmas 2013, I had enough. I had an extremely difficult year, but I was ready and wanted to change.

I looked into different treatments and I came across hypnotherapy, which had been used but there wasn’t much research on it.

My friend had used Ben for her driving anxiety and she shared his link on Facebook. I contacted Ben through his Facebook page and the ball started rolling.

Our first appointment we discussed at length about which symptoms were the worst, which we called the shopping list of symptoms that we could tick off.

Anxiety was the most controlling. It took over my whole being. I had a constant heavy aching feeling in my chest, rapid breathing, being fidgety, tense and not able to make eye contact.

That was me everyday. Imagine having to live like that. I did for such a long time but after that one session it changed my life. I could breathe! I was relaxed! I was starting to take control!! People around me could see how much it was working already, they could see a weight had been lifted.

Over the other sessions we continued to tick away at the list, each time gaining more confidence and taking more control of it.

I particularly remember using parts therapy where we spoke to different parts of me. Anxiety, depressed, angry etc. I still use this therapy for self hypnosis.

I still have my “dark days” but I am now dealing with them in a healthy way and just ride them out. Now you might think that’s not good enough but it is for me. I would have rapid mood swings everyday, self harm or go on a drinking spree. I can now control it with bed rest and chocolate like normal people do. I would like to say they are few and far between but one day they will be.

Ben has helped me overcome the most difficult part of my life and I am forever grateful.

We have left the sessions open ended. Just like a dentist you need a check up every now and again.

I am now gigging in a few pubs playing guitar and singing, volunteering one day a week for the green light project helping people with drug addictions and starting to look into getting paid work. Now I couldn’t have done that 6 months ago.

Thank you Ben from the bottom of my heart. Thank you.