Borderline Personality Disorder

Borderline personality disorder is a mental health disorder. People with borderline personality disorder have unhealthy patterns of perceiving, thinking about, and reacting to their environment and events in their life. These patterns are established by adolescence or early adulthood. People with borderline personality disorder also have difficulty coping with stress on their own and fear being abandoned by others. They have difficulty controlling their emotions. Their emotions change quickly, frequently, and intensely. They are easily upset and can become very angry, very suddenly. Their unpredictable behavior often leads to problems in their relationships. They often feel worthless, unloved, and emotionally empty.


No one knows the exact cause of borderline personality disorder. Most mental health experts think that there is more than one cause. Possible contributing factors include:

  • Genetic factors. These are traits that are passed down from one generation to the next. Many people with borderline personality disorder have a family history of the disorder.

  • Physical factors. The part of the brain that controls emotion may be different in people who have borderline personality disorder.

  • Social factors. Traumatic experiences involving other people may play a role in the development of borderline personality disorder. Examples include neglect, abandonment, and physical and sexual abuse.


Signs and symptoms of borderline personality disorder include:

  • A series of unstable personal relationships.

  • A strong fear of being abandoned and frantic efforts to avoid abandonment.

  • Impulsive, self-destructive behavior, such as substance abuse, irrational spending of money, unprotected sex with multiple partners, reckless driving, and binge eating.

  • Poor self-image that also may change a lot, or a sense of identity that is inconsistent.

  • Recurring self-injury or attempted suicide.

  • Severe mood swings, including depression, irritability, and anxiety.

  • Lasting feelings of emptiness.

  • Difficulty controlling anger.

  • Temporary feelings of paranoia or loss of touch with reality.


A diagnosis of borderline personality disorder requires the presence of at least 5 of the common signs and symptoms. This information is gathered from family and friends as well as medical professionals and legal professionals who have a close association with the patient. This information is also gathered during a psychiatric assessment. During the assessment, the patient is asked about early life experiences, level of education, employment status, physical health conditions, and current prescription and over-the-counter medicines used.


Caregivers who usually treat borderline personality disorder are mental health professionals, such as psychologists, psychiatrists, and clinical social workers. More than one type of treatment may be needed. Types of treatment include:

  • Psychotherapy (also known as talk therapy or counseling).

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy. This helps the person to recognize and change unhealthy feelings, thoughts, and behaviors. They find new, more positive thoughts and actions to replace the old ones.

  • Dialectical behavioral therapy. Through this type of treatment, a person learns to understand his or her feelings and to regulate them. This may be one-on-one treatment or part of group therapy.

  • Family therapy. This treatment includes family members.

  • Medicine. Medicine may be used to help control emotions, reduce reckless and self-destructive behavior, treat anxiety, and treat depression.


  • You cannot control your behavior or emotions.

  • You think about hurting yourself.

  • You think about suicide.


National Alliance on Mental Illness:

U.S. National Institute of Mental Health:

Borderline Personality Resource Center: