What Is Borderline Personality Disorder?

borderline personality disorder

Clinically reviewed by Dr. Jonathan Martin and Kimberly D. Gray, LCSW

Borderline personality disorder (or BPD) is a mental health condition that affects how a person thinks about themselves and their relationships with others. If you have BPD, you may have trouble controlling your behavior and managing your emotions, which can lead to unstable relationships. And when a relationship ends, you may feel abandoned, which worsens the condition.

Borderline Personality Disorder Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of borderline personality disorder include:

  • Intense fear of abandonment
  • Extreme actions to avoid actual or perceived abandonment, including threats of self-harm or suicide
  • Sudden swings in your assessment of relationships, such as thinking everything is “perfect” to feeling the other person is cruel or insensitive
  • Impulsive behavior that often involves risk, such as reckless driving, drug abuse, binge eating, gambling, and unsafe sex
  • Displays of intense anger, such as lashing out verbally or physically
  • Unpredictable changes in self-assessment, including viewing yourself as unlovable or worthless
  • Extreme paranoia and disconnect from reality that can last minutes to hours 
  • Significant mood swings that can include intense joy, shame, anxiety, or irritability
  • Feeling empty or like you don’t exist

If you experience any of these symptoms, you should contact your doctor or mental health professional. BPD can be treated.

If you have suicidal thoughts, you should get help right away by taking one or more of these actions:

  • Call 988 (Suicide & Crisis Lifeline).
  • Call 911.
  • Call a trusted friend or family member.
  • Call your mental health counselor.
  • Call a member of your faith community.

Suicidal thoughts can cloud your mind. Talking with someone can help you regain clarity and make it through the crisis.

If a friend or loved one talks about or threatens suicide, encourage them to see a doctor or contact a mental health provider. If it seems like harmful action is imminent, call 911.  

Borderline Personality Disorder Diagnosis and Treatment

Doctors diagnose BPD using several tools, including a physical exam, medical history, psychological evaluation, and in-depth discussion about your symptoms. They typically make this diagnosis in adults, as signs in children and teens often go away as they reach adulthood. 

Still, you should seek help for children and teens who exhibit borderline personality disorder symptoms. The doctor just may not make an official diagnosis of BPD. 

Treatment for borderline personality disorder mainly involves psychotherapy or “talk therapy.” Its goal is to teach you to:

  • Manage your emotions
  • Avoid making assumptions about what others are thinking or feeling
  • Reduce impulsiveness
  • Set boundaries for yourself and your interactions with others
  • Improve relationships
  • Maintain a healthy lifestyle, including eating a healthy diet and being physically and socially active

It’s also helpful to get treatment for related issues, like substance misuse.

While there are no FDA-approved drugs specifically for BPD, there are medications that can address co-occurring problems like depression or anxiety. Substance misuse is often a primary issue that needs to be addressed in order to achieve the goals listed.

If more intensive treatment is needed, your doctor may recommend hospitalization. 

Help for BPD Is Available!

Borderline personality disorder makes life challenging for patients, their families and friends, but help is available. Learn about behavioral health services at Baptist Health and take action to help yourself or a loved one. 

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