You may have heard me mention the term, “Borderline Personality Disorder” in my last post about attachment styles. Did it get you wondering, “what exactly is that?” Well, before going forward with any more posts on attachment, I thought I’d explain just a little bit what Borderline Personality is. Unfortunately, I feel that it’s a disorder that gets such a bad reputation, and I feel that many people do not understand what the disorder actually is.


Borderline Personality Disorder (sometimes abbreviated as BPD) is an emotional and personality disorder. It often leads to unstable relationship patterns, poor self-image, and inability to regulate emotions. In order to be diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, you must meet the following criteria –

An extensive pattern of instibility and of interpersonal relationships, self-image and affects and marked impulsvity beginning in early adulthood and presenting in a variety of contexts as indicated by 5 or more of the following

(In English: a pattern is seen of relationships that are not stable. In addition, your self-image is not stable – perhaps “flip-flopping” from feeling good about yourself, to thinking you aren’t worth anything. Also, you find it extremely difficult, or even impossible to control your impulses and urges. This must occur in at least 5 of the following situations to meet the diagnosis for BPD).

  1. You frantically try to avoid any situation where abandonment could occur. This feeling of abandonment can be real or imaginary. The point is, if you feel there is a chance you could be abandoned, you often frantically do anything in your power to avoid this situation.
  2. A clear pattern of relationships (whether with a romantic partner, family, friends, etc) that are not stable
  3. Identity Disturbance (This means you cannot seem to identify who you are, or you feel that you have no identity)
  4. Impulsivity in a way that is self-damaging (This could be cutting yourself, attempting suicide, unhealthy sexual behaviours, drug use, and/or placing yourself in dangerous situations)
  5. Suicidal Behaviour, suicidal gestures, threats, or self-mutilating behaviour (such as cutting one’s self) that reoccurs/happens over and over.
  6. Mood Instability – this is not just what one would call mood swings, but would be categorized as severe mood swings. You could go from feeling joyous, happy, and on top of the world, to feeling so depressed that you believe your life is no longer worth living.
  7. A chronic/continuous feeling of emptiness
  8. Feeling, and showing INTENSE anger often in inappropriate ways
  9. Periodic feelings of paranoia ideation and thoughts, and /or feeling “dissociated” from one’s self (separated from one’s self) that is induced by extreme feelings of stress


It is important to note that not everyone who has Borderline Personality Disorder displays symptoms in the same way. And because only 5 of the 9 above criteria need to be met, Borderline Personality can sometimes be quite difficult to diagnose. Often one of the most recognized and well-known symptoms is constant threatening of suicide. People who have borderline personality disorder often feel extreme agony from their inability to regulate their emotions, they often will feel so depressed that they will tell others they want to commit suicide. Sometimes, they will have their fear of abandonment will feel SO strong, they will threaten or attempt suicide just to see if someone else cares for them enough to come save them. Unfortunately, because suicide is often threatened or attempted, other people stop responding to their threats, assuming it’s a “she’s cried wolf again” type of situation. Sadly, this is one of the most common causes of death in people who have this disorder. Often people who are involved with someone with Borderline Personality Disorder will become burnt out with helping them, and forget how much the person is suffering. It’s quite sad to think that someone on a regular basis experiences feeling of abandonment so strong, that they 100%, honestly believe that they need to take such extreme measures to ensure they will not be abandoned. What’s more sad is that these behaviours caused by such extreme feelings does often lead to the person being abandoned


Note: All Statistics are taken from the BPD Fact Sheet from the National Education Alliance Borderline Personality Disorder. You can find the website HERE

  • In the United States, it is estimated that 5.9% of the population is diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder – that’s 14 Million Americans
  • Borderline Personality Disorder is more common than schizophrenia and bipolar disorder
  • Of the all the people admitted to psychiatric units/hospitals, 20% of them have Borderline Personality Disorder
  • 10% of people diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder commit suicide
  • 55-85% of people who are diagnosed with BPD engage in self-injury behaviour
  • and one third of teenagers who commit suicide have begun showing borderline-like symptoms
  • Approximately 85% of people diagnosed with BPD also meet diagnostic criteria for at least one other mental disorder
  • About 38% of people who are diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder also have substance abuse/dependence disorders and are often prescribed 3 or more medications by their psychiatrist.
  • About 75% of people diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder have experienced physical and/or sexual abuse


One of the most well-known and researched treatments for Borderline Personality Disorder is Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (Read more about how this therapy works in one of my older articles: “Dialectical Behavior Therapy“). One thing to note if have this diagnosis, and are seeking treatment, is that therapy is not a quick fix. Going through therapy for BPD takes quite a bit of time, it may even take years. In addition, it is very important for those close with someone who has BPD to seek therapy as well – this will help provide an outlet for your frustrations, difficulties, questions, and support. It will also help avoid experiencing burn out so that you can help the other person the best you can. The important thing to remember is that you are in essence seeking therapy to repair your personality – personalities do not just change over night. However, it IS possible to experience healthy, fulfilling, and stable interpersonal relationships


There may not always be a clear “cause” of this disorder. However, it has been noted to be very common amongst people who have experienced physical and/or sexual abuse as a child. In addition, experiencing another severe trauma, such a losing parents, or a close family member/friend can have an impact as well. In addition, Borderline Personality is 5-10 times more likely if a parent or sibling has been diagnosed with the disorder. If you read my past article, Attachment Styles-What are They, you can also see that there is a clear link to parenting styles and insecure attachment in the child. It is also thought that this could explain the relationship between a parent having been diagnosed with BPD, and the child then being diagnosed with it as well.

The long and short of it is, that currently, the causes of BPD are not well understood. Most of the research out there corrleational (remember – juts because two things are related or correlated does NOT mean that one causes the other). Much more research still needs to be done on this topic. And there is also talk about the diagnostic criteria for Personality Disorders as a whole changing in the new DSM-V which is expected to be published sometime this year (2012).

In Sum…

Borderline Personality Disorder is a very real and serious mental and personality disorder. It is not to be taken lightly. The symptoms can be excruciatingly painful for the personal who has been diagnosed, and it can be easy to forget this when you are close with someone who has this disorder. If you feel you may have Borderline Personality Disorder, it is important to seek help, and to not suffer in silence. For further information on Borderline Personality, please seek the suggested reading links below.

Suggested Reading

What is Borderline Personality Disorder? (

Borderline Personality Disorder (Mayo Clinic)

An Introduction to Borderline Personality Disorder (PsychCentral)

Pamphlet on Understanding Borderline Personality Disorder (NAMI)

Borderline Personality Disorder: National Education Alliance

Informational Videos on BPD (NEABPD)

Borderline Personality Disorder (WebMD)

The Mystery of Borderline Personality Disorder (Time Magazine)

What is Borderline Personality Disorder?
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