Borderline Personality Disorder

Have you often wondered why your loved one sees things in such extremes, as all good or all bad? Or why she can’t seem to get a handle on her impulses with money or shoplifting? If these behaviors seem out of control and keep her from functioning in society, read on to learn about borderline personality disorder.

Definition of Borderline Personality Disorder

Borderline personality disorder is a condition in which people have long-term patterns of unstable or turbulent thoughts, feelings and behaviors.[1] About 1 in 20 or 25 individuals will live with the condition. In the past, it was believed that the disorder occurred in more women than men, but recent research suggests that males and females are affected by the disorder almost equally. Borderline personality disorder is diagnosed in people from each race, ethnicity and economic status.[2]

Types of Borderline Personality Disorder

Borderline personality is one type of a group of conditions called personality disorders. Other personality disorders include, antisocial personality disorder, avoidant personality disorder, dependent personality disorder, histrionic personality disorder, narcissistic personality disorder, obsessive-compulsive personality disorder, paranoid personality disorder, schizoid personality disorder, and schizotypal personality disorder.

Signs & Symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder

Symptoms of borderline personality disorder include the following:[1,3]

  • Uncertain about their identity, resulting in interests and values changing rapidly
  • Seeing things in terms of extremes, such as either all good or all bad. Their views of other people may change quickly. A person who is looked up to one day may be looked down on the next day. These suddenly shifting feelings often lead to intense and unstable relationships.
  • Fear of being abandoned
  • Feelings of emptiness and boredom
  • Frequent displays of inappropriate anger
  • Rapid mood swings, and periods of intense depression, irritability, and anxiety (which might last only hours)
  • Unpredictable, dangerous and/or impulsive behavior with money, substance abuse, sexual relationships, binge eating, or shoplifting
  • Confusion regarding self-image, sexual orientation, and choice of careers or friends
  • Brief periods of confused thinking and perception during times of great stress
  • Intolerance of being alone
  • Repeated crises and acts of self-injury, such as wrist cutting or overdosing

Causes of Borderline Personality Disorder

While the exact cause of borderline personality disorder isn’t known, it is believed to be caused by a combination of the following:[3]

Biological factors. People with borderline personality disorder might be born with a vulnerability to the disorder, which is then triggered by stress or other factors. For example, research suggests that a malfunction in the brain might be responsible for the impulsiveness, mood instability, anger, and negative emotions that are common in people with this disorder.

Psychological factors. Childhood trauma, such as abuse, neglect, prolonged separation, or inconsistent parenting might be psychological “triggers” for borderline personality disorder while a disruptive family life and poor communication within the family also are also risk factors.

Effects of Borderline Personality Disorder

Without treatment, people with borderline personality disorder are at greater risk for substance abuse, eating disorders (including anorexia and bulimia), depression, self-injury and suicide. The disorder is also linked to high conflict, divorce, separation from family members and friends, as well as financial and legal problems.[3]

Treatments for Borderline Personality Disorder

While the majority of people with borderline personality disorder will experience long-lasting periods of symptom remission in their lifetime, many will not recovery completely. Psychotherapy and medication can help control symptoms.[2]

Psychotherapy. While cognitive behavioral therapy, psychodynamic psychotherapy and certain other psychosocial treatments are useful for some people with borderline personality disorder, the majority of people with this illness will find the most useful treatment to be dialectical behavioral therapy. Through individual and group work, dialectical behavioral therapy focuses on teaching coping skills to combat destructive urges and encourages practicing mindfulness (e.g., meditation, regulated breathing and relaxation). It has been shown to reduce the outcome of suicide in research studies for people with borderline personality disorder.[2]

Medication. While medications can’t cure borderline personality disorder, antidepressants, antipsychotics and anti-anxiety drugs may help with associated clinical problems, such as depression, impulsiveness and anxiety.[4]


  1. US National Library of Medicine. National Institutes of Health. Borderline personality disorder. Retrieved February 1, 2013, from
  2. National Alliance on Mental Illness. Borderline Personality Disorder. Retrieved February 3, 2013, from
  3. Cleveland Clinic. Borderline personality. Retrieved February 3, 2013, from
  4. Mayo Clinic. Borderline personality disorder treatments and drugs. Retrieved February 3, 2013, from

By C. J. Newton, MA, Editor

Visit BetterHelp, our Top rated online therapy provider.


This blog post is sponsored by BetterHelp, but all opinions are our own.”

“ may receive compensation from BetterHelp or other sources if you purchase products or services through the links provided on this page.”