What Borderline Personality Disorder Looks Like

Borderline personality disorder is a mental illness that is not really talked about much and for that reason many do not understand it or even know what it is. People with this disorder have deep rooted fear of abandonment, rejection, and separation. Usually, impulsivity is also common and so risky behaviors are all too common. Low self esteem is also prominent. BPD is usually diagnosed in adulthood and is seen more in women than in men. As much as six percent of the population has been diagnosed with BPD.

Characteristically, the behavior of someone with borderline personality disorder can change even at just the thought of possible future rejection or separation. They can become very angry or afraid. An example of this could be something as simple as a doctor calling to change an appointment. These individuals will sense this as abandonment and believe the cause is their fault because they are not good enough.

Borderline personality disorder impairs daily functioning because of the absence of impulse control so socially and professionally they tend to be inept. They are literally frantic at the very thought of any type of abandonment, they may go back and forth between bouts of extreme idolization and depression, they have a very negative self image, they are extremely impulsive, they feel empty, they have difficulty controlling anger, and suffer from paranoia.

Borderline personality disorder symptoms are seen very often in relationships with friends or lovers. Most often they will attach themselves very early on in the relationship offering too much self disclosure and demanding to spend an unrealistic amount of time with the person. If these people become standoffish the individual will believe it is because they are not good enough.

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  • Hmm, I have heard of BPD before, but I never quite knew what it was. All of these symptoms I can relate to in some way. I am extremely paranoid and anxious, have low self-esteem, more often than not very depressed, and my anger is easily stirred by slight triggers of irritability. I have yet to visit a doctor to see if I suffer from any form of mental illness, but I'm 99% sure I may have something along the lines of depression or BPD.
  • Around 6 years ago I was diagnosed with bipolar w/ borderline personality disorder. The doctors since have all focused on the bipolar part, and seemed to ignore the borderline personality. Between their lack of interest and what I believed I knew about it I never really took an in depth look at it. I knew about the lack of impulse control, and I thought that borderline mainly meant that you see things in balck and white... no grey area at all.So thank you for posting this!!
  • Thanks a lot for posting this, I had heard about this before, I suspect my future husband might suffer from this because he displays some of the symptoms.  I'm not entirely sure though, since  he hasn't been officially diagnosed, so it would be hard to really know unless he gets an official diagnosis.  Someone unofficially diagnosed him for me though, he is a psychologist, I told him some of the things my fiance often does and says and he said there is a huge chance he is BPD. 
  • Unfortunately this disorder is often misdiagnosed or used as a "wastebasket" diagnosis for difficult or badly traumatized patients. I was diagnosed at age 14 (despite it not being diagnosable until age 18) simply because I was self harming. The diagnosis led to the abuse I had experienced being ignored and my cries for help being called dramatic and/or manipulative. It caused me to not be able to get proper treatment for over ten years from the time I first entered therapy, and I was retraumatized by much of my therapy leading up to that point.
  • I actually saw a wonderful documentary depicting the extreme highs, lows, confusion, and general experience of Borderline Personality Disorder. It's constructed from a video diary that a young women kept for 8 years, and you see her going through her incredibly bumpy ride. I'd highly recommend it for people who are unfamiliar with BPD, or want to understand the experience of a loved one with borderline!

    Google: Being Ida Documentary
  • Anyone been diagnosed with both BPD and bipolar? I am semi recovered from BPD but continue to have severe mood swings despite medication. I wonder how much of it is bipolar and how much is something else.
  • I am curious, how is it treated?
  • Thank you for posting this. I have had these symptoms in the past but did not know the name for it. Are there any known cases of people being cured of BPD. I have been using some subliminal videos for mood improvement and this is helping me a lot.
  • It's not unusual for Bi-Polar Disorder to be misdiagnosed as Borderline Personality Disorder and vice versa or for them to be diagnosed together, in which case the diagnosis is probably uncertain. Self-harming is one of the biggest symptoms of Borderline PD, although it isn't always present and it doesn't always necessarily mean it's a personality disorder. If I'm not mistaken, Bi-Polar Disorder would be very similar to Borderline but without the demonizing of others and without the self-harm and fear of abandonment.
  • @ Mooray - the current evidence-based practice for the treatment of BPD is Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT).  It is a form of cognitive behavior therapy that teaches skills in areas like the self-regulation of difficult emotions and good interpersonal communication skills that the majority of people pick up over the course of their development, but due to a variety of factors (genetic predisposition, extreme abuse or neglect as a child, severely unstable family structure), those with BPD never had a chance to acquire.  It is also characterized by a tendency to think in black and white tems (something is either all good or all bad, for example).  Contrary to what was said at the opening of this discussion, BPD is a commonly discussed topic right now in the mental health world, primarily because DBT is relatively new and has shown incredible success in helping people learn to be less reactive, effectively get their needs met, etc.  It is virtually never seen in the absence of severe childhood abuse (such as sexual abuse by multiple family members, being locked in a basement for days on end, etc). I am an interrn psychologist working on my doctorate in clinical psychology and I use DBT all the time in therapy because many of the skills are actually applicable to a variety of disorders. The formal DBT program is extremely rigorous and requires a lot of time and effort, but many people who have committed themselves to this form of therapy have said it literally saved their lives.  Individuals with BPD are at a very high risk for suicide and other self-harm behaviors because they have so much trouble regulating their emotions.

    As for the question of its similarities with bipolar disorder, most of what has been said here is correct: BPD is a personality disorder, and disorders of this classification describe individuals whose entire way of thinking and acting - their personality structure -  is affected by the disorder.  Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder, and is considerably more common (though, for some people with Type I Bipolar, it is basically as severe as BPD).  Bipolar and BPD, as well as some other diagnoses, share common features of impulsivity and mood swings, but the difference is that individuals with mood disorders typically have asymptomatic periods where they may feel basically normal.  This is not the case with personality disorders.  A key "take-home" point about this disorder is that it should not be diagnosed without clear symptom presentation, and it should never be diagnosed in an individual with an active substance use disorder, because severe substance use and withdrawal symptoms look very much like BPD.  I always screen my patients for BPD when I do diagnostic intake assessments, but given the severity of the disorder and the fact that all diagnoses tend to "follow" people around via their health records, I avoid personality disorder diagnoses unless I cannot find any other reasonable explanation for their symptom presentation.

    @ chinne01 - I know not everyone understands this complex diagnosis or provides psychotherapy to those who have it, but describing people with BPD as "socially and professionally inept" is both naive and shockingly insulting.  They struggle with the ability to regulate their emotions, not with intelligence.  Simply picking and choosing a few symptoms that are related to a disorder and then saying that the chaos those symptoms create in someone's life makes them incompetent (check your thesaurus for synonyms) is ridiculous.  Please find a DSM-5 and educate yourself on complex psychopathology before you try to summarize.  
  • Thank you for posting this information and for these helpful comments. I have known people with BPD before but didn't really understand what this meant or how it affected them. It's really difficult to understand the differences between the different personality disorders I think. Best always to keep an open mind when learning about this and trying to help friends and families with their struggles. @AuraBean thanks for your detailed and educational post!
  • @Sunshiner, you are welcome! I think it's really important to educate people about these disorders when possible because their names and associated symptoms do get thrown around a LOT in popular culture, and sometimes even the fact that they sound similar can be confusing.  You are not alone in thinking the personality disorders are confusing, and I think people are not used to thinking in terms of a disordered personality...someone might have major depression with episodes that have fairly clear boundaries, but a personality disorder represents a person's baseline, and it makes it hard to define symptoms clearly.  There is the added level of confusion that some share names with disorders: for instance, there is Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, which is an anxiety disorder, and then there is Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder, which is considerably different.

    Fun stuff! :)
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