Cases That Test Your Skills

Command hallucinations, but is it really psychosis?

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The authors’ observations

During Ms. D’s LTSR placement, it became clear that her self-harm behaviors and numerous visits to the ED and urgent care facilities involved severe and intense emotional dysregulation and maladaptive behaviors. These behaviors had developed over time in response to acute stressors and past trauma, and not as a result of a sustained mood or psychotic disorder. Before her LTSR placement, Ms. D was unable to use more adaptive coping skills, such as skills building, learning, and coaching. Ms. D typically “thrived” with medical attention in the ED or hospital, and once the stressor dissipated, she was discharged back to the same stressful living environment associated with her maladaptive coping.

Table 2 outlines the rationale for long-term residential treatment for Ms. D.

Rationale for long-term residential treatment for Ms. D

TREATMENT Developing more effective skills

Bolstered by a clearer diagnostic formulation of BPD, Ms. D’s initial treatment goals at the LTSR include developing effective skills (eg, mindfulness, interpersonal effectiveness, emotion regulation, and distress tolerance) to cope with family conflicts and other stressors while she is outside the facility on a therapeutic pass. Ms. D’s treatment focuses on skills learning and coaching, and behavior chain analyses, which are conducted by her therapist from the ACT program.

Ms. D remains clinically stable throughout her LTSR placement, and benefits from ongoing skills building and learning, coaching, and community integration efforts.

The authors’ observations

Several systematic reviews2-5 have found that there is a lack of high-quality evidence for the use of various psychotropic medications for patients with BPD, yet polypharmacy is common. Many patients with BPD receive ≥2 medications and >25% of patients receive ≥4 medications, typically for prolonged periods. Stoffers et al4 suggested that FGAs and antidepressants have marginal effects of for patients with BPD; however, their use cannot be ruled out because they may be helpful for comorbid symptoms that are often observed in patients with BPD. There is better evidence for SGAs, mood stabilizers, and omega-3 fatty acids; however, most effect estimates were based on single studies, and there is minimal data on long-term use of these agents.4

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