Signs & Symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder

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Understanding BPD

Learn about borderline personality disorder

Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a serious mental health condition that is characterized by significant emotional instability that can lead to a number of stressful mental and behavioral problems. Those with borderline personality disorder tend to struggle with a distorted self-image and often feel as though they are completely worthless or like they are a flawed individual in general. Additionally, those with BPD often display frequent mood swings, of which may include intense anger and impulsive behaviors. And even though people suffering from borderline personality disorder may want to have lasting meaningful relationships, the drastic shifts in mood coupled with frequent anger tend to push others away.

While borderline personality disorder can be a challenging disorder to control, by receiving proper treatment, many individuals with this disorder are able to learn skills to assist in managing and coping with their symptoms and live meaningful lives.


BPD statistics

It has been estimated that 1.6% of adults living in the United States have borderline personality disorder. Additionally, borderline personality disorder has shown to be more prevalent in females with 75% of all BPD diagnoses being provided to women.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for BPD

While research is still being conducted to determine what causes the development of borderline personality disorder, most researchers agree that genetic and environmental factors are likely to be involved. These causes and other risk factors are explained in more detail below:

Genetic: Multiple twin studies have shown that borderline personality disorder has a strong genetic component. This means that those who have close relatives who have struggled with this disorder or other mental health conditions are more likely to develop borderline personality disorder themselves. However, a specific gene has yet to be identified.

Environmental: There are a number of environmental factors that can put an individual at an increased risk for the development of borderline personality disorder. For examples, such environmental factors can include poor parenting or a lack of parental involvement. Additionally, individuals who have been subjected to physical, sexual, or emotional abuse and/or neglect are at a higher risk of developing symptoms of borderline personality disorder than are individuals who did not experience similar traumas.

Risk Factors:

  • Family history of borderline personality disorder
  • Family history of other mental health conditions
  • History of physical abuse and/or neglect
  • Exposure to trauma
  • Being female
  • Being a younger adult

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of BPD

When individuals have borderline personality disorder, it is going to affect how they feel about themselves, how they relate to others, and how they behave. These people tend to be unsure about their identity, experience rapid changes in interests or values, and tend to view things in extremes. This pattern of thinking and behaving typically leads to stress and impairments in social, work, or other areas of functioning. Additional signs and symptoms of borderline personality disorder may include:

Behavioral Symptoms:

  • Engagement in impulsive or risky behaviors
  • Angry and antagonistic behaviors
  • Engagement in physical fights
  • Self-injury
  • Frequently changes jobs
  • Difficulties maintaining friendships
  • Suicidal behaviors

Physical Symptoms:

  • Scars, bruises, cuts, burns, or other signs of self-injury
  • Weight fluctuations

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Difficulty control emotions or impulses
  • Unable to see grey areas; only thinks in terms of black and white
  • Stress-related thoughts of paranoia

Psychosocial Symptoms:

  • Intense episodes of anxiety or depression
  • Feeling misunderstood, neglected, or alone
  • Excessive fear of being alone
  • Self-hatred and self-loathing
  • Rapidly changing self-identity or sense of self
  • Chronic feelings of emptiness
  • Unstable self-image
  • Feeling as though one does not exist at all


Effects of BPD

The effects of untreated or undiagnosed borderline personality disorder can damage many areas of a person’s life, including relationships, jobs, social activities, and self-image. The most common long-term effects of BPD can include the following:

  • Repeated job losses
  • Inability to maintain steady income
  • Destruction of interpersonal relationships, including broken marriages
  • Self-harming behaviors
  • Frequent hospitalizations for self-injury
  • Development of additional mental health disorders
  • Drug and/or alcohol abuse
  • At-risk for unplanned pregnancies and contracting STDs from engaging in risky sexual behaviors
  • Interaction with law enforcement, including possible incarceration, for frequent engagement in physical fights
  • Suicidal thoughts and behaviors

Co-Occurring Disorders

BPD and co-occurring disorders

Those who are suffering from borderline personality disorder are more prone to developing another mental health disorder than are individuals who do not have BPD. Some of those most common disorders that can occur alongside borderline personality disorder include:

  • Substance use disorders
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Depressive disorders
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Eating disorders
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder