Can omega-3 help treat symptoms of borderline personality disorder?

by Rebecca Israel, MS & Sabrina Drumond. Reviewed by Charles Li,

July 26, 2020

  • Omega-3 fatty acids are showing promise as a complimentary treatment for mood disorders like depression.

  • In particular, omega-3 can help treat symptoms of aggression and depression.

  • Research suggests that borderline personality disorder is a good candidate for omega-3 treatment, based on the symptoms it treats.

omega-3 and borderline personality disorder title

Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish oil, are an up and coming complementary medicine. Supplements are already widely available, but the evidence for its effectiveness and safety are still growing. Over the last few decades, scientists have considered whether omega-3 is a viable treatment option for mood disorders like depression and bipolar spectrum disorder. With cautious success, researchers have broadened their scope into borderline personality disorder.

Borderline personality disorder is a mental disorder. People with this disorder have unstable relationships and extreme mood changes, such as sudden shifts to anger or sadness. They sometimes do things that seem extreme and can even be violent. Plus, they act without thinking about the consequences.

UpToDate

Omega-3 and borderline personality disorder

To determine if omega-3 could improve symptoms of borderline personality disorder, researchers recruited 30 patients for an 8-week trial. They treated 20 participants with omega-3 and 10 participants with an alternative. All the subjects were women and had similar demographic characteristics and treatment histories.

Can omega-3 supplements help treat symptoms of borderline personality disorder?

Symptom improvement was measured with two standardized scales that are commonly used for borderline patients. One scale rates a patients aggression throughout the week, which is a frequent symptom among borderline patients. The other ranks depressive symptoms like sadness, inner tension, pessimism, and suicidal thoughts. Subjects given omega-3 saw a greater decrease in aggression and depression scores by the end of the trial.

Subjects given omega-3 saw a greater decrease in aggression scores than the placebo group by the end of the trial.

Source: Omega-3 Fatty Acid Treatment of Women With Borderline Personality Disorder: A Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Pilot Study

Subjects given omega-3 saw a greater decrease in depression scores than the placebo group by the end of the trial.

Final thoughts

This sample was small and only included women, which means the results can not be generalized to an entire population. However, it does begin painting a picture of how omega-3 may benefit borderline patients.

Omega-3 is used to treat symptoms, not a particular disease. This can be both positive and negative in mental health care.. By only treating symptoms, omega-3 is not targeting the root causes of a disease and therefore cannot be a cure. On the other hand, omega-3 can be used to treat a variety of mental health disorders that exhibit aggressive and depressive symptoms, not just borderline personality disorder. For example, antidepressants on the market today are prescribed for an array of individuals with different diagnoses. If omega-3 can be used in a similar manner, it has the potential to help a lot of people.

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