UW Today

This is an archived article.

September 16, 2004

Volunteers needed for borderline personality disorder treatment studies

Volunteers needed for borderline personality disorder treatment studies


More than 60 Puget Sound residents with borderline personality disorder, a serious but treatable psychiatric condition, are needed as volunteers for two studies at the University of Washington designed to refine a therapeutic treatment for the disorder.

Individuals with borderline personality disorder have a multiple spectrum of disorders that are marked by emotional instability, difficulty in maintaining close relationships, eating disorders, chronic uncertainty about life goals, and impulsive and addictive behaviors such as using drugs and alcohol. People with the disorder also may engage in self-injurious behaviors or attempt suicide.

An estimated 5.8 to 8.7 million Americans, primarily women, suffer from borderline personality disorder, said Marsha Linehan, a UW psychology professor and director of the Behavioral Research & Therapy Clinic, who is directing the research. The studies will utilize a variety of state of the art behavioral treatments. Medication will be prescribed as needed.

To participate in one of the studies, people need to be between the ages of 18 and 60 and live close enough to the UW’s Seattle campus — roughly the area from Tacoma to Everett — so they can travel there to receive treatment once or twice a week. All persons accepted as subjects will receive outpatient treatment at low or no cost. Volunteers can be self-referred or referred by a therapist, family member or friend.

For one study, funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, the research team is looking for 33 women who have a long-standing pattern of using inappropriate behavior to get out of emotional pain. Individuals who have a serious psychotic disorder or a seizure disorder that requires medication are not eligible to participate.

The second study, funded by the National Institute of Drug Abuse, needs 29 men and women who are addicted to heroin. Individuals who are currently receiving adequate treatment methadone or another opiate replacement medication are not eligible to participate. Half of the people in this study will receive suboxone, a new replacement drug, and dialectical behavior therapy while the other half with receive suboxone plus group and individual drug counseling.

“Borderline personality disorder is a disorder of emotional regulation and we will be testing treatments for a group of people who are typically told they can’t be treated,” said Linehan.

The two studies are part of a research effort to distill the essential elements of therapeutic approaches to effectively treat borderline personality disorder in a community health setting and to treat specialized populations.

People who would like to volunteers for either study or have questions should contact the LaTheena Jones, participant coordinator at the Behavioral Research & Therapy Clinics, at (206) 543-2782, extension 1, or latheena@brtc.psych.washington.edu.


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