Borderline Personality Disorder
Written by Ada’s Medical Knowledge Team
What is borderline personality disorder?
Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a condition in which a person has developed certain personality traits and patterns of behavior which cause problems socially and in relationships.
This is not necessarily an illness, but this can make some parts of their life difficult. People with a borderline personality tend to have unstable moods and difficulty controlling their thoughts and emotions. These people tend to act impulsively. These traits sometimes lead to self-harming behavior, difficulty in relationships and overreactions to stressful events.
These personality traits tend to develop in people who have had a difficult childhood or adolescence. Treatment can be achieved through psychological counseling.
The personality is the way that a person reacts to people and events in their life. The personality is formed during childhood as a result of family relationships, childhood experiences and difficulties. Personality traits may also be partially inherited from one's parents. If people develop personality traits which cause them difficulty in their life, this is called a personality disorder.
A major cause of borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a traumatic life experience in childhood. This may include parental neglect, sexual abuse or physical violence.
This condition is relatively common; it is estimated that up to 3 percent of the general population may have the personality traits of BPD. It tends to affect women more commonly than men. The personality traits tend to cause the most problems in early adulthood and become less troublesome as people grow older.
People with a borderline personality tend to:
- Have unstable moods and difficulty controlling their thoughts and emotions
- Often feel conflicting emotions
- Act impulsively and, sometimes, aggressively
These traits sometimes lead to:
- Self-harming behavior
- Difficulty in relationships
- Overreactions to stressful events
These people may find they experience similar problems in different relationships. They may also be involved in risky behaviors, such as:
- Drug consumption
- Eating disorders
- A tendency to cause themselves harm
The diagnosis of borderline personality disorder is made after a thorough psychological assessment, which considers multiple aspects of a person's life.
The diagnosis is often difficult as people with borderline personality disorder have often had multiple complicated experiences which have formed their personality.
To make the diagnosis of borderline personality disorder, a doctor should exclude other causes for the symptoms, such as depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder.
Therapy aims to teach people with these personality traits how to manage difficulties and relationships and how to manage impulsive behavior. This is usually done by a psychologist.
It can take time for a person with BPD to learn new ways of dealing with problems, but this therapy can be effective if a person is determined.
Medications might be prescribed to help symptoms of depression or anxiety, because people with BPD often also have these conditions.
It is difficult to prevent borderline personality disorder. Providing stable, loving support for a child or young person who is going through difficult times may help, as may early recognition and treatment of difficult personality traits.