Borderline Personality Disorder: An Overview

What is Borderline personality disorder (BPD)?

It is a critical psychological condition. Individuals with BPD have constant mood swings and emotional ups and downs. Unfortunately, they have problematic behavioral and relationship issues.

The American Psychiatric Association (APA) defines it as one of the many personality disorders like paranoid, schizoid, schizotypal, or antisocial issues.

Like the other mental disorders, BPD is a pattern of feelings and behaviors that seem suitable and justified to the individual experiencing them.

The term borderline refers to the fact that people with this condition tend to be on ‘border’; varying mental health conditions and behavior patterns in their lifetime.

Ironically, BPD tries to share a friendly and warm relationship with others, but their emotional ups and downs alienate them from others.

Definition of Borderline Personality Disorder:  “Borderline personality disorder is a mental illness marked by an ongoing pattern of varying moods, self-image, and behavior. These symptoms often result in impulsive actions and problems in relationships. People with a borderline personality disorder may experience intense episodes of anger, depression, and anxiety that can last from a few hours to days.” (The National Institute of Mental Health)

When does BPD Begin?

None of the individuals are born with any of the personality disorders. Most personality disorders, including BPD, begin in adolescence or early childhood.

Borderline personality disorder (BPD) has historically been seen as a lifelong, highly disabling disorder.

According to a 2015 study published in The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, mild symptoms of BPD appear in childhood itself. If left untreated, this psychological disorder continues to cause a great deal of distress, especially during adolescence and adulthood.  However, the severity of BPD symptoms reduces over time. Functional recovery from BPD is less consistent. Definitely, targeted treatments for BPD can help to a great extent.

Characteristic Traits of BPD

If you have a borderline personality disorder, it is going to cause you behavioral issues in the sphere of your life. It will be a thorn in the flesh for you. You might face significant problems in interpersonal relationships emotions, behaviors, self-image, and thought processes.

Borderline personality disorder (BPD) typically includes the following symptoms:

  • Intense relationships marred by arguments, conflicts, and break-ups
  • Strong sensitivity to abandonment and rejection in relationships
  • Perception of self-image swings between extremely negative and positive feeling
  • Constant emotional ups and downs with quick shifts in moods
  • Exhibits risky, reckless, and impulsive behavior
  • Engage in self-harming behavior
  • Get into paranoid thoughts of insecurity and harm from others
  • Recurrent feelings of boredom, isolation, and emptiness
  • Intense feelings of worry, anxiety, and depression
  • Unable to set career goals and achieve targets

Importantly, only some of the above symptoms will be severely present in any BPD patient. The traits of BPD can vary according to their life circumstances.

What are the causes of BPD?

An ample number of studies have researched the possible causes of borderline personality disorder. None of the researchers could exactly pinpoint the reasons for BPD.

Comparative study on various researches suggests that a combination of factors relating to genetics, family, and environment is responsible for mental disorders.

Some of the possible factors that may cause BPD are:

  • Negative experiences like trauma, childhood abuse, accident, separation from parents, or severe hardships at a young age
  • Growth defects in the brain, especially in the parts of the brain that affect impulse control and emotional regulation
  • Family history of BPD issues, especially of children born from BPD mother or father

Nonetheless, everyone facing any of the above criteria does not develop a borderline personality disorder. Most people are mentally strong enough to outlive the conditions that are responsible for mental disorders.


The best ways to diagnose borderline personality disorder are:

  • Meet a mental health professional like a psychiatrist, psychologist, or mental health counselor. The psychologist may make use of psychological evaluation of the patient through questionnaires and friendly discussions
  • Analysis of medical examination history
  • Discussion regarding the signs and symptoms of the disorder
  • Ascertaining BPD incidence in the family

Diagnostic tests are not necessary for children as BPD symptoms may go away as children get older.

Treatment options

Most of the mental health experts in the past were suspicious about the success of treatment for borderline personality disorder. On the other hand, the latest researches show that BPD is treatable.

The first step to BPD treatment is consulting a mental health specialist. It is possible to reduce the symptoms of BPD with consistent treatment under the vigilance of psychotherapists. Also, the patient should make earnest efforts to overcome the issue.

Treatment helps to calm down the aggressive tendency to self-harm or commit suicide.

Look out for well-experienced mental health care experts specialized in treating borderline personality disorder.

Treatment options include:

  • Undergoing psychotherapy treatments such as dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) and cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Medications such as antidepressants, antipsychotics, or mood-stabilizing drugs
  • Individuals with severe BPD symptoms should go to a psychiatry hospital or clinic for treatment

Borderline Personality Disorder and Suicidality

Suicidality is a defining feature of borderline personality disorder (BPD).

It is almost impossible to find a patient with BPD who has never shown any suicidal behavior.

In October 2011, The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (5th ed.) (American Psychiatric Association, 2013), completed data collection in filed for BPD diagnostic criteria.

According to criterion 5 in DSM-IV-TR, patients with BPD are characterized by “recurrent suicidal behavior, gestures, or threats, or self-mutilating behavior.”

In fact, suicidality is a distinguishing feature of BPD from other classic mood disorders.

Where to get help?

If you are living in the United States, you can save your dear one from suicide by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), 24 hours throughout the year.

Also, find out the licensed mental health professional in your locality to assist BPD patients. You can approach professionals such as psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, or mental health counselors.

Besides this, be prepared to meet emergencies like an attempt to suicide or self-harming by the patient.

Living with Borderline Personality Disorder

If you are living with BPD or being in a relationship with someone who has BPD, life is going to be very stressful for you.

First and foremost, it is not easy to accept and acknowledge the reality of BPD.

Regular treatment under the supervision of mental healthcare professionals can gradually ease out the symptoms of BPD.

You should try to learn to handle emotional outbursts and impulsive behavior. Your sole intention should be of managing a happy and rewarding relationship with the patient.

Recovery time

Treatments can reduce impulsive and self-destructive behaviors through psychiatric therapy. Treatment like psychotherapy, medications, and hospitalization are useful. In addition, alternative programs like yoga, aromatherapy, support groups, and peer support work well for managing borderline personality disorder.

Most patients with borderline personality disorder considerably improve over time. Undoubtedly, you have to struggle with the symptoms of this mental disorder for a long time.

Undergoing continuous treatment under mental health care professionals will help you reduce the symptoms and make you live a happy life.

BPD is a complex mental disorder that requires long-term treatment.

Article Source:

  • American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.
  • Bornovalova, M., Gratz, K. L., Delany-Brumsey, A., Paulson, A., & Lejeuz, C. W. (2006, June). Temperamental and environmental risk factors for borderline personality disorder among inner-city substance users in residential treatment. Journal of Personality Disorders, 20(3), 218-231
  • Coolidge, F. L., Thede, L. L., & Jang, K.  (2001, February). Heritability of personality disorders in childhood: A preliminary investigation. Journal of Personality Disorders, 15(1), 33-40
  • Torgersen, S., Lygren, S., Oien, P. A., Skre, I., Onstad, S., Edvardsen, J., . . . Kringlen, E. (2000, November – December). A twin study of personality disorders. Comprehensive Psychiatry, 41(6), 416–425
  • National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). Borderline Personality Disorder: What Is Borderline Personality Disorder? NIH Publication No. QF 17-4928. National Institutes of Health. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.