"There is a lot of stigma in borderline personality disorders, though a lot of clinicians and others have done a lot to de-mystify the disorder," she said. "They didn't want to give a label to an adolescent given this huge stigma. As a profession, we may be shirking our responsibilities if we don't treat and early intervene with this disorder when we see early signs of it."
Sharp is at the forefront of a burgeoning area of study in developmental psychopathology. Funded by the Menninger Clinic's Child and Family Program, her two-year study examined 111 adolescents receiving in-patient treatment and found many who met criteria for borderline personality disorder. She found these adolescents overthought social situations, sparking an over-emotional response.
"I am trying to understand the development of the disorder. What happens in the brain and mind that puts them in a different trajectory compared to their peers?" she said. "I think the danger is missing the diagnosis and families having to go through periods of confusion and not getting the right treatment."
Sharp credits university partnerships with aiding this new research, which was featured in the journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. She says the next steps may include neuro-imaging of the brain that may lead to new drug treatments.
"It is fascinating. It opens up a whole new avenue of intervention."
Carla Sharp is part of what's happening at the University of Houston. I'm Marisa Ramirez.
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