Borderline personality disorder (BPD)

Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a disorder of mood and how a person interacts with others. It's the most commonly recognised personality disorder. Generally, someone with a personality disorder will differ significantly from an average person in terms of how they think, perceive, feel or relate to others.

Symptoms of BPD

The symptoms of BPD can be grouped into four main areas:

  • emotional instability
  • disturbed patterns of thinking or perception
  • impulsive behaviour
  • intense but unstable relationships with others

The symptoms of a personality disorder may range from mild to severe. They usually emerge in adolescence, persisting into adulthood.

Causes of BPD

The causes of BPD are unclear. As with most conditions, BPD appears to result from a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

Traumatic events that occur during childhood are associated with developing BPD. Many people with BPD will have experienced some of the following during childhood:

  • parental neglect
  • physical or sexual abuse
  • emotional abuse

When to seek medical advice

If you're experiencing symptoms of BPD, see section above, make an appointment with your GP. They may ask about:

  • how you feel
  • your recent behaviour
  • what sort of impact your symptoms have had on your quality of life

This is to rule out other common mental health conditions, such as depression. It is also to make sure there's no immediate risk to your health and wellbeing.

Treating BPD

Many people with BPD can benefit from psychological or medical treatment.

Treatment may involve a range of individual and group psychological therapies (psychotherapy). It will be carried out by trained professionals working with a community mental health team.

Depending on your symptoms, and how you respond to treatment, you may need therapy for a long time. Over time, many people with BPD overcome their symptoms and be able to cope normally with day to day interaction with others. Additional treatment is recommended for people whose symptoms return.

Associated mental health problems

Many people with BPD also have another mental health condition or behavioural problem, such as:

BPD can be a serious condition, and many people with the condition self-harm and attempt suicide.

The information on this page has been adapted from original content from the NHS website.

For further information see terms and conditions.

This page was published March 2018

This page is due for review November 2019

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