Borderline Personality Disorder

What is borderline personality disorder?

Borderline personality disorder is a mental health condition that causes unstable emotions, impulsiveness, relationship problems, and an unstable self-image. People with the disorder often struggle with other conditions such as depression, eating disorders, or substance abuse problems.

Signs of the disorder usually first appear in childhood, but problems often don’t develop until early adulthood. Treatment can be difficult. Setbacks are common, and recovery from troubling emotional and behavioral symptoms can take years. However, treatment may be more effective than was previously thought, and even people with severe symptoms usually improve over time.

What are the symptoms?

Features of borderline personality disorder include aggressive behavior, difficulty controlling emotions and impulses, problems with unstable and intense relationships, a low sense of self-worth, and frantic anxiety about being left alone (abandoned). Unlike similar behaviors that everyone experiences once in a while, the negative or destructive behaviors of borderline personality disorder are intense and occur repeatedly over a long period of time.

Other characteristics of borderline personality disorder may include long-term feelings of emptiness, frequent and sometimes violent temper tantrums, self-injury (such as cutting or burning yourself), and suicidal behavior.

What causes borderline personality disorder?

The cause of borderline personality disorder is not completely understood, but the disorder seems to run in families. Often people who develop this disorder had childhood trauma or early loss of or separation from a parent. It is also common for people who get borderline personality disorder to have certain personality traits such as problems coping with anxiety or stress.

An imbalance of chemicals in the brain called neurotransmitters may also play a role in borderline personality disorder.

Who is affected by borderline personality disorder?

Borderline personality disorder affects approximately 2% of the general population. If you have a parent or sibling with borderline personality disorder, you are at increased risk for developing the condition. It is also more common in families where members have other conditions such as antisocial personality disorder, substance abuse, or mood disorders such as depression.3

How is it treated?

Although there is no cure for borderline personality disorder, symptoms can often be successfully managed with professional counseling and medicines such as antidepressants or mood stabilizers. Most people who are treated for borderline personality disorder improve over time. But treatment can be challenging, and recovery can take years. Although relationships with health professionals such as therapists can be difficult, long-term counseling is often an important part of treatment. Other conditions that commonly occur along with borderline personality disorder, such as depression or bulimia nervosa, can make treatment even more complicated.