Borderline Personality Disorder

What is borderline personality disorder?

Borderline personality disorder (sometimes called BPD) is a particular pattern of extreme personality traits. Unlike many other mental health conditions, personality disorders are usually present in some form throughout a person’s life.

Personality disorders can sometimes be confused with regular personality traits, but the difference is that a personality disorder deviates from cultural norms and causes a person significant trouble on a regular basis.

In borderline personality disorder, a person generally has difficulty maintaining steady relationships with other people. They may be dramatic, impulsive, and demanding.

People with borderline personality disorder also tend to be moody, experiencing a lot of high highs and low lows. Experiencing very intense, hard-to-control emotions is a hallmark of borderline personality disorder.

It’s normal to experience strong emotions, mood swings, and conflicts with other people at times. But if these conflicts and intense emotions are persistent and extreme enough to cause problems in your day-to-day life, you might have borderline personality disorder.

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How common is borderline personality disorder?

According to The National Institute of Mental Health, at least 1.6% of American adults have borderline personality disorder.

However, the actual percentage may be higher due to mistaken diagnoses of mental health conditions that appear similar to borderline personality disorder.

Borderline personality disorder is much more common for women than for men. About 75% of people diagnosed with borderline personality disorder in the U.S. are women.

Symptoms of borderline personality disorder

Borderline personality disorder can come with a wide array of symptoms, and not everyone will experience the same symptoms.

However, some of the most common symptoms include:

  • Intense, often irrational emotions: You might tend to feel things very deeply in a way that is often out of proportion to a situation.

  • Tumultuous personal relationships: Your relationships with other people might be unstable, and you might experience quick changes from very positive feelings to very negative ones.

  • Fear of abandonment: You may feel constant fear that you will be rejected by your loved ones, to the point that you might actually push them away.

  • Self-harm: You might engage in cutting or other self-harming behaviors.

  • Thoughts of suicide or suicide attempts: Suicidal thoughts and behaviors are more common for people with borderline personality disorder.

  • Impulsive behavior: You might take actions that are risky, dangerous, or erratic.

  • Periods of severe anxiety or depression: Borderline personality disorder often comes with at least some symptoms of anxiety or depression.

  • Issues with self-image: You may have unrealistic or unstable ideas about yourself, whether positive or negative.

Types of borderline personality disorder

There is no clear consensus about whether or not different subtypes of borderline personality disorder exist. Some researchers and theorists have attempted to create these definitions, but for the most part they have not yet been clinically tested.

The important thing to note is that different people may experience borderline personality disorder in different ways. In particular, some people may have more outward symptoms, such as impulsive behavior and conflict with others. At the same time, other people may have more inward symptoms, such as paranoia and anxiety.

If you’re not sure whether your symptoms might be borderline personality disorder, it’s best to consult with a therapist or physician for further guidance.

Treatments for borderline personality disorder

There are a number of options that may be helpful if you think you might have borderline personality disorder:

  • Therapy. Therapy can be a very helpful way to gain insight into your condition and work on evidence-based strategies to reduce your symptoms. (See tips on finding a therapist below.)

  • Group therapy. Group therapy is also a commonly recommended course of treatment for borderline personality disorder, including dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) groups. DBT groups can be especially effective for individuals with BPD as they focus on helping participants build behavioral skills around issues they may be experiencing, such as instability in emotions and relationships.

  • Medication: Medication is another option for managing symptoms of borderline personality disorder. Though most medications come with side effects, a psychiatric professional can help you manage these side effects and find the most effective treatment.

  • Check-ups: Symptoms that seem like borderline personality disorder can sometimes be related to underlying medical conditions. It’s important to stay up-to-date with visits to your primary care physician to rule out related medical conditions.

  • Mindfulness Practices: Some studies have found that meditation and other mindfulness practices can be a tool for easing symptoms of borderline personality disorder.

  • Hotlines: If you’re having thoughts of suicide or need immediate support, you can always call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at at 1-800-273-8255. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration hotline at 1-800-622-4357 can also help you locate resources and treatment options.

Therapy types for borderline personality disorder

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) is often considered the best treatment for individuals with borderline personality disorder. Several studies have found that DBT can be effective for individuals with BPD in improving coping skills, stabilizing mood, improving interpersonal skills, and reducing risk of suicide.

Other therapy types that are utilized in the treatment of borderline personality disorder include:

What to look for in a therapist for borderline personality disorder

When seeking treatment for borderline personality disorder, look for therapists who are trained in Dialectical Behavioral Therapy or other types of therapies for borderline personality disorder.

Additionally, you’ll want to make sure that your therapist is qualified to treat borderline personality disorder. This will usually involve:

  • Advanced education in a field related to mental health, such as psychiatry, psychology, or social work;

  • Licensure to practice in the state where you live;

  • Additional training and/or experience in treating borderline personality disorder specifically. Often, this means a certification in practicing DBT.

Finally, as with any therapy, it’s important to make sure that your therapist is a good fit for your unique needs.

Be sure to evaluate the following in your initial calls with therapists:

  • How will you pay for therapy? Does the therapist take your insurance or otherwise offer rates that will work with your budget?

  • When and where will you attend sessions? Does the therapist offer treatment at a location that is convenient for you and at times that work with your schedule?

  • Most importantly, do you feel comfortable talking to this therapist and sense that you have the potential to develop a therapeutic alliance?

Find DBT therapists for borderline personality disorder

Find DBT therapists for borderline personality disorder near you on Zencare:

Search by insurance, fees, and location; watch therapist introductory videos; and book free initial calls to find the right therapist for you.