What is Borderline Personality Disorder?
Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a serious mental health condition characterized by difficulties in managing emotions effectively. The main feature of BPD is a strong pattern of instability in a person’s relationships, self-image, or emotions. People who live with BPD can experience rapid changes in mood that last from a few hours to a few days. They may also experience issues of identity, self-harm (such as cutting), impulsivity, fear of abandonment, and feelings of emptiness.
All people experience a degree of emotional turmoil and instability from time to time. For the person with BPD there is an ongoing pattern of instability that interferes with daily functioning and the ability to maintain relationships.
Borderline personality disorder can be difficult to diagnose, as many of its symptoms can be mistaken for signs of a mood or identity disorder. Symptoms of BPD usually begin in late adolescence or early adulthood. BPD is more commonly diagnosed in women (about 75%) than men, contributing to the popular misconception that it is a “women’s” mental health disorder. However, men can also experience BPD and it may be underdiagnosed in males due to bias and stigma associated with the disorder.
Although BPD occurs in 2-6% of adults (estimates vary widely) it is less well known than other major mental health conditions, such as depression, anxiety and schizophrenia. The word ‘borderline’ in BPD can be misleading. In the early days of psychiatry clinicians believed that BPD was a “borderline” state between neurosis and psychosis. While that is no longer the case, some people feel the word ‘borderline’ is stigmatizing. When used by mental health professionals “BPD is a clinical diagnosis, not a judgment.” (NEABPD)
Borderline personality disorder belongs to a category of mental health conditions known as personality disorders. These disorders involve deeply ingrained patterns of behavior that can be very hard for a person to change. As a result, BPD was once thought to be “untreatable.” However, there are now evidenced-based treatments such as Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), which teach skills that can help people BPD manage their emotions and have a more stable life and relationships. Although BPD may persist throughout a person’s lifetime, the high-risk behavior and instability of relationships tend to lessen in middle age, while vocational functioning tends to improve.
The emotional shifts that accompany BPD can lead to self-harm behavior, such as cutting, as well as suicidal thoughts or actions. If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis related to BPD or any other disorder, call 911 or your local crisis intervention service. For more information visit our page on What to Do in a Crisis.
If you are concerned that you or someone you care about might be experiencing symptoms of BPD, it is important to seek help from a qualified mental health professional. Our Resource Specialist can help you find expert mental health resources to recover in your community. Contact us now for more information on this free service to our users.