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Borderline Personality Disorder: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment

Sometimes, a person can appear to just be difficult when they have a condition that most psychologists would believe needs treatment. This is true of many people who have Borderline Personality Disorder, or BPD. It can have an impact on everyone who regularly comes into contact with the person who suffers from it. In this article, we will explore the key aspects of Borderline Personality Disorder, including its symptoms, causes, and available treatment options.

borderline personality disorder

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)

Borderline Personality Disorder, as defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), is a condition characterized by a pervasive pattern of instability in interpersonal relationships, self-image, and emotions.

It is estimated that approximately 1-2% of the population is diagnosed with BPD, with higher rates among clinical populations. BPD often manifests during late adolescence or early adulthood and tends to persist throughout the individual's life.

Borderline Personality Disorder revolves around instability in emotional states and relationships. People who have it are often exceptionally sensitive to any sign, whether real or imagined, that they are being rejected by the people in their life.

They are also prone to strong emotional reactions and appear to have difficulty controlling them. They are also often generally very impulsive, to the point where they act before fully considering the consequences of their actions to such a degree that they harm their lives in the process.

Interacting with someone who shows Borderline Personality Disorder Symptoms can be a very stressful experience because it is not always clear what kind of reception will be forthcoming. Their instability in relationships can often take the form of having very extreme views of the people they interact with.

At one point they may assume that a particular person is virtually perfect, and then later conclude that the same person is worthless. Since their views can switch back and forth quickly and without necessarily having any particular connection to events or situations, people are sometimes left with virtually no ability to predict what type of reception they are going to receive on any given day.

Having a basic understanding of what it means for a person to have a Borderline Personality can make it easier for the people surrounding the patient to cope with the symptoms. Treatment is typically recommended to address the actual problems.

Treatment usually takes the form of therapy that centers on developing a more solid self-image and a better set of emotional tools for coping. The prognosis depends heavily on the nature of a patient’s life at the time of treatment.

Patients often improve as they get older, but those who are most responsive to treatment are the ones who have stable jobs and social relationships.

Patients who are dealing with Borderline Personality Disorder can attempt to treat themselves to some degree as well.

Exercises that are designed to help people to develop their coping skills and to gain control of their impulses can be invaluable for them if the exercises are done faithfully.

While this is best done as a way to augment formal therapy, it is entirely possible for a person who prefers to avoid therapy to gather self-help resources to help them develop a repertoire of exercises that can help them to gain some control over the symptoms that are disrupting their life.

Borderline Personality Disorder Symptoms

  • Uncertainty of identity: Results in quick changes in their values and interests.
  • Sudden and constantly shifting feelings and opinions of concepts and people: They live within a world of extremes where people and/or things are either all bad or all good and their views of these extremes are apt to shift suddenly. It adversely affects their relationships.
  • Fear of abandonment: This fear can be displayed through acting out when left alone or getting moody when rejected. There are many factors involved in the fear of abandonment and how it is expressed will vary from individual to individual.
  • Impulsive behavior: People suffering from BPD are commonly impulsive when spending money, having sexual relations, eating, and substance abuse. This can cover many different avenues of impulsive behavior.
  • Unable to tolerate being alone: The intolerance of being alone may tie into the fear of abandonment for some individuals while others get anxious when alone and experience panic attacks and other kinds of episodes. They need to have people around them and to know they will not be alone.
  • Frequent inappropriate or unreasonable displays of anger: Frequent displays of anger can happen at any time and for any reason without cause. These displays can be triggered by a memory brought on through any of the senses or they can just occur for no reason whatsoever. You may notice a person suffering from this disorder can be happy and laughing one minute and then suddenly for no reason you can find they become angered.
  • Frequent acting out, crises, and self-injuries: Acting out is something common with this disorder. Sadly, the acting out can be severe and the person can hurt themselves and/or create crises that require help. It can mean a cry for help even when they try to hide the injuries.
How do you know if you have BPD?

The diagnosis is made through a psychological evaluation just like with other personality disorders.

The severity of the disorder can also be uncovered so that the right treatment can be found.

The Most Commonly Seen BPD Symptoms:

What the average person calls 'mental illness', professionals have a wide variety of names to describe. They carefully cultivate an extensive list of the recognized diseases and disorders, along with the specific symptoms and characteristics that must be present to give a diagnosis for each of them.

When a patient appears to have a particularly delicate sense of self, a psychiatrist will look for other symptoms that may indicate that they are dealing with a person who is suffering from Borderline Personality Disorder.

A sense of self refers to a person’s own idea about who he or she is. It is the defining idea behind how people decide to behave in a wide variety of situations, and how they will react to the situations and people that they encounter every day.

When someone does not have a clear image in his own mind of who he is, he does not have a clear guiding principle and is much more likely to behave in an unstable and unpredictable manner. Because his idea of his own identity is prone to change so rapidly, the way that he behaves can change sharply even in very similar situations.

People who have this particular disorder generally suffer from an extremely profound level of insecurity in relationships with others. Because the disorder frequently makes a person feel as if he has no value, and may even be evil or harmful, it is very difficult to form strong and secure attachments.

Someone with BPD tends to be extraordinarily sensitive to any sign that someone might abandon him, and can often act out even when the abandonment that he fears is imaginary. He will often waver wildly between intense levels of admiration for others and hatred of the very same people.

It tends to be difficult or impossible to form strong relationships because the people who try to get to know someone with BPD can never be entirely sure whether they will be loved or despised on a given day.

There are also other emotional impacts of this disorder. Someone who has it may feel anxious, irritable, or depressed. These feelings tend to last anywhere from a few hours to a few days, though.

This means that a person who has these feelings in relation to BPD may not also meet the criteria to be diagnosed with something like major depressive disorder or generalized anxiety disorder. Also, patients will often act out in very extreme ways.

They may attempt suicide multiple times, be dangerously sexually promiscuous, spend and drive recklessly, and otherwise act in ways that violate their self-interests.

It is very important for a person who shows signs of Borderline Personality Disorder to get a proper psychological workup from a qualified psychiatrist. It is not uncommon for someone who has BPD to also suffer from other psychiatric illnesses that may make treatment much more difficult.

Once a diagnosis is made, however, a professional can provide the guidance, and perhaps even the medication, that can help a person to live a much more peaceful and stable life.

What Causes Borderline Personality Disorder

Determining the precise causes of psychological issues tends to be difficult. The human brain is quite possibly the most complex thing in existence, and for ethical reasons, scientists and doctors are not able to do very much direct experimentation on human patients to determine what is causing their distress.

Despite this, they have made progress toward identifying the root causes of some illnesses. Several components are thought to be key to causing some people to develop Borderline Personality Disorder while others do not.

For a long time, the basic assumption in dealing with people of all types was that infants are born as blank slate, and who they become is almost entirely determined by the experiences that they have in life. Partly for this reason, BPD was long thought to be the simple result of bad parenting.

People with this particular Personality Disorder are exceptionally sensitive to criticism and rejection and tend to be insecure with a poor sense of self. It is easy to see how all of these things could be readily assumed to be the result of a parent who did not offer much love and reassurance and therefore created a child who did not know how to securely bond with others.

The current belief is that environment does play a role, but that it mainly determines whether or not the disorder will appear in people who are already inclined to develop it due to their genetics. The thinking goes that we first thought that BPD appeared more frequently within the families of sufferers because the Personality Disorder of the parents made them more likely to provide a poor environment to their children.

Medical professionals now believe that this contributes, but that they are also passing on a genetic tendency toward the condition. This theory is backed up by studies of twins raised separately and apart and how often they show symptoms of the condition.

There are also cases where brain abnormalities may be contributing to the symptoms. Some studies of the brains of patients have shown that they have abnormalities in the areas associated with things like aggression and emotional regulation.

It is not clear to what extent this is a physical reflection of the changes caused by genetic and environmental factors, and to what degree there may be other sources of these measurable changes in the brain.

No one knows for sure how these different factors contribute to creating the cluster of behaviors and symptoms known as Borderline Personality Disorder. For most people, it is likely that some combination of them comes together to cause the problem, and the importance of each factor may even change from one case to the next.

For people who have a history of this type of Personality Disorder in their family, it may be wise to watch for early signs of any issues in their children, so that it will be possible to intervene early if symptoms should begin to appear. The current medical knowledge, however, does not allow mental health professionals to have any certainty of whether this disorder can be prevented.

  See alsoPersonality Disorders and their Symptoms

Diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder

Diagnosing Borderline Personality Disorder involves a comprehensive evaluation by mental health professionals. They will consider various factors, including the individual's symptoms, personal history, and the presence of any other mental health conditions. The diagnosis is based on specific criteria outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).

Borderline Personality Disorder Treatment

Borderline Personality Disorder is commonly treated with a few different types of therapies and medications. Talk therapy like DBT (dialectical behavioral therapy) has shown promise in the successful treatment of this personality disorder.

Certain medications like those that elevate and stabilize mood can go a long way to helping in combination with therapy.

Effective BPD Treatment

It is extremely difficult for psychologists to define the boundaries of mental health and illness due to the sheer complexity of the human mind. Even once a disorder has been formally defined, it can be difficult to put together an effective treatment regime that is both acceptable to the patient and effective in bringing about the kind of change that can improve their lives.

Though treating Borderline Personality Disorder, or BPD, is a difficult process, it can be carried out with a great deal of success when patients are committed to the process.

BPD is a disease that centers heavily on the impulsivity of the patient and their difficulties in controlling themselves and the way that they view the actions of those around them. For this reason, treatment tends to center on developing a better set of tools that they can use to regulate their emotions and to deal with the people in their lives more productively.

This can be a slow process because these kinds of reactions are ingrained for many years. The good news is that even patients who pursue self-help options to build up their ability to control their impulses often experience improvements.

One of the factors of a good treatment plan is for a psychiatry or psychology specialist to examine the patient and to determine whether there are any other issues present that might pose a problem for treatment. For example, someone might suffer from both a Personality Disorder and Major Depression.

When this happens, the treatment of the former is far more likely to go well if the latter is also addressed as part of the treatment plan by using such options as medications. This is one very good reason that it is always best for diagnosis to be handled by an expert, rather than for people to try to diagnose and treat themselves without the benefit of guidance.

Psychotherapy, particularly Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), is considered the gold standard for treating BPD. It focuses on helping individuals regulate their emotions, develop healthier coping mechanisms, and improve interpersonal skills. Other therapeutic approaches, such as Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and psychodynamic therapy, may also be beneficial.

Mindfulness skills, for example, include developing the capacity to observe a situation objectively to determine what is really going on, which can be a big help for people who are prone to be impulsive and assume that they are being abandoned or betrayed. Other elements of this therapy focus on such tasks as identifying changes that can improve quality of life and developing better self-soothing skills.

BPD Symptoms are troubling for both the patient and the people around him, but it is a disorder that can be treated. The prognosis of a patient can vary greatly, particularly depending on how stable their life is and what kind of social support system they already have in place when entering therapy.

However, even those patients that do not fully escape the behaviors that are characteristic of the disorder can usually develop some skills to help them to improve their quality of life and to limit the negative impact on the people that they love.


Personality disorders have become more common in today’s modern world. It is believed that this phenomenon has occurred due to more dysfunctional family lives where various forms of abuse, neglect, or abandonment factor into the family scheme.

The actual cause of BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder) is currently unknown. Not only is the family environment believed to be a risk factor in this disorder, but also genetics and social schemes may also be part of the cause.

While the causes are sketchy and unknown at this time, the symptoms are well-documented. It is important to know about the symptoms so you can recognize the possibility that this disorder may be affecting you or someone you love.

If the symptoms go unnoticed and the disorder is left untreated it can lead to problems in the sufferer’s everyday life.


1. What are the early signs of Borderline Personality Disorder?

Early signs of BPD may include intense mood swings, fear of abandonment, impulsivity, self-harm, and an unstable sense of self.

2. Can Borderline Personality Disorder be cured?

Borderline Personality Disorder is a chronic condition, but with proper treatment and support, symptoms can be managed effectively, leading to significant improvements in quality of life.

3. Is medication necessary for treating Borderline Personality Disorder?

Medication may be prescribed to address specific symptoms associated with BPD, but it is typically used in combination with psychotherapy and self-help strategies for comprehensive treatment.

4. How does Dialectical Behavior Therapy help in managing BPD?

DBT equips individuals with BPD with skills to regulate emotions, improve interpersonal relationships, and develop healthier coping mechanisms.

5. Are there any alternative therapies for Borderline Personality Disorder?

There are no specific alternative therapies for BPD, but complementary approaches such as mindfulness-based practices, yoga, and art therapy can be used as adjuncts to traditional treatment methods.

6. Can someone with Borderline Personality Disorder have healthy relationships?

Yes, individuals with BPD can develop and maintain healthy relationships with the help of therapy, improved communication skills, and building a strong support network.

7. Can childhood trauma be a contributing factor to developing BPD?

Yes, childhood trauma, including abuse or neglect, can increase the risk of developing Borderline Personality Disorder. Early life experiences play a significant role in the development of the disorder.


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