What Is Borderline Personality Disorder?


Borderline personality disorder, or BPD, can be a difficult mental illness to understand. It is also a challenge to live with, but that’s just what 1 percent to 2 percent of the population does. BPD is as common as other more noteworthy mental illnesses like bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, and yet it gets little attention. There are effective treatments for BPD, but too many people go undiagnosed and don’t get the help they need. If the description of BPD here rings true to you and reminds you of someone you love or of yourself, it may be time to see a doctor about a diagnosis.

What Is BPD and What Does It Look Like?

Borderline personality disorder is not easy to define. It is a mental health disorder. It is serious and it is characterized by instabilities: unstable moods, unstable relationships, unstable behaviors and an unstable sense of self. Someone with BPD is likely to have wildly fluctuating moods and to experience intense emotions. She has relationships with other people that are tumultuous and rocky. Her self-image is distorted and she feels flawed and worthless, even if others don’t view her that way. Classic symptoms of BPD include the following:

  • A pattern of turbulent relationships that rapidly veer from love and neediness to hate and anger.
  • Dangerously impulsive behaviors.
  • Extreme reactions to the feeling of being abandoned, whether real or just perceived.
  • Suicidal thoughts and behaviors or self-harm, like cutting.
  • A distorted self-image or a sense of being flawed, broken or worthless.
  • Feeling bored and empty.
  • Highly variable moods with intense feelings.
  • Inappropriate rage and anger.
  • Paranoia or dissociation. This could mean having out-of-body experiences or feeling out of touch with reality.

To be diagnosed with BPD you need to exhibit at least five of the symptoms and those symptoms need to be pervasive. That is, they last for a long time and are not just phases that you go through. Because there is such variety in the symptoms, BPD can look different from one person to another. It can also be difficult to diagnose in adolescents because many of the symptoms are similar to typical teenage behaviors.

Is There Hope for Someone With BPD?

Yes, there is hope for anyone struggling with BPD, but a diagnosis is important for treatments to be appropriate and effective. If you or someone you care about is exhibiting signs of BPD, getting a correct diagnosis is your next crucial step. Unlike treatment for other mental illnesses, medications are not a major part of treatment for BPD. Drugs can help with certain symptoms like depression, but therapy is the main way in which BPD is treated, and it can be successful for most patients.

There are a number of types of therapy that have been proven to help patients with BPD. A good therapist will work with a patient until the right kind of treatment is found. Most are based on the idea that you can learn to recognize your inappropriate or incorrect thoughts and behaviors and work toward changing them. In other words, you learn to be more self-aware and how to control emotions, feelings and negative thoughts. BPD is a frightening disorder and has long been misunderstood. With better awareness, more people will begin to realize that there is an answer and an explanation for their troubling moods and feelings. Most importantly, they will realize that help is available.

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