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Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)

Updated on July 27, 2011

What is Borderline Personality Disorder?

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is a serious mental disorder characterized by long-term patterns of unstable or turbulent emotions that often times lead to impulsive actions and chaotic relationships. It affects how one feels about themselves, how they relate to others, and how they behave. It is among a family of other serious personality disorders.

The cause of BPD is unknown but it is thought that genetics, as well as factors early in childhood may serve a role in the development of the disease. Risk factors for BPD include sexual abuse, a traumatic event, or abandonment – all in childhood. It is most common in women. Some research has shown that certain brain chemicals that help regulate mood don’t function properly in patients with BPD. Most likely a combination of environmental factors such as sexual abuse, coupled with certain brain abnormalities or genetic factors result in the disorder.

BPD can bring on many symptoms, and at different levels. Some are uncertain about their true identity, so their interests, values, and beliefs may change repeatedly. Their views of other people tend to change quickly as well, often times for no particular logical reason. Someone they were close with one day may be someone they despise the next day. A “love/hate” relationship is frequently experienced with loved ones and friends. People with BPD are apt to seeing things in extremes, either all very good or all very bad. This stormy behavior can lead to some very unstable relationships. Minor misunderstandings or differences in perception can lead to dramatic shifts in mood and behavior.

Other symptoms of the disorder include the fear of being abandoned, frequent displays of inappropriate anger, sexual promiscuity, shoplifting, substance abuse, depression, anxiety, difficulty controlling emotions, and repeated crises and conflict. People with borderline personality disorder often feel misunderstood and alone. They are good at self-loathing, and are sometimes completely unaware that their behavior is destructive. They tend to place blame on others, never realizing their faults in anything.

Along with other personality disorders, BPD can be difficult to diagnose. There isn’t just one test that can diagnose the illness. BPD is diagnosed based on a psychological evaluation and history of symptoms. Eating disorders, bipolar disorders, and/or other personality disorders are sometimes seen alongside BPD. This can make diagnosis especially difficult. In some cases, medications can help treat depression and mood swings associated with the disorder, but often times, BPD is hard to treat. Some psychologists suggest talk therapy to treat BPD. In any case, psychological therapy of some sort is necessary in the road to recovery.

If this sounds like someone close to you, or someone you know, you should talk to them about seeing a mental health provider. It can be hard to get these types of people to agree to help, but it’s always worth a try, especially if this person is suicidal or displaying extremely destructive behavior. Suicide rates are high in people with borderline personality disorder, so lending a hand might save a life. On the other hand, people with BPD may not accept the offer to help, and may not agree there is a problem. Confronting them may present a typical explosion of anger, and may do no good. Sometimes it is best to just walk away from the relationship, if it is affecting your life negatively, and you’ve done what you can to help.


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    • profile image

      Jorge Medina 5 years ago

      Hey Ashley, this article opened my eyes to what might the cause for so many inconsistencies in my life. Thanks so much for this article!

    • Ashley Gray profile image

      Ashley Gray 6 years ago from Colorado

      Thanks for reading, pamela99!!

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 6 years ago from United States

      I like this article as you explained borderline personality very well. I found it very informative. Rated up and useful.

    • Ashley Gray profile image

      Ashley Gray 6 years ago from Colorado

      Thanks so much!! I actually have someone in my family that has this, and it is really, really hard to have a relationship with them - its actually sort of non-existent at the moment. Really tough! Thanks for voting up and nice to meet you!!

    • EsmeSanBona profile image

      EsmeSanBona 6 years ago from Macon

      Great hub! I used to work at a mental health facility and borderline personality disorder was, as you write, one of the most difficult to diagnose illnesses. Thanks for writing such an astute hub on this misunderstood disorder. Voted up!