Learn about the signs, symptoms and causes of Personality Disorders.
Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) overview
While the pressure of everyday life can sometimes bring about stormy relationships, misshapen self-image, and mood fluctuations – borderline personality disorder (BPD) is marked by an intense pattern of those unstable thoughts, moods, and feelings. It is a mental illness that not only causes problems for the person affected, but for their family, friends and partners too.
The ongoing challenges for a sufferer of borderline personality disorder can make it difficult to feel comfortable in one's own skin and think rationally in times of stress, resulting in impulsive actions and problems with their interpersonal relationships. This instability can also disrupt work life, long-term planning, and how an individual self-identifies and finds their place in their community.
What is Borderline Personality Disorder?
Borderline Personality Disorder is a personality disorder characterised by intense feelings of anger, depression or anxiety, followed by severe difficulty regulating those emotions. Your patterns of thinking or actions may seem rigid to the point where interferences cause you severe distress. The intense and unstable nature of the condition can alienate sufferers, causing them to feel isolated – and even increase the risk of self-harm and suicide.
The term “borderline” refers to the additional mental health conditions that sufferers often “border” on being diagnosed with.
While a person with depression or bipolar disorder will experience the same mood state for a prolonged period of time, a person with borderline personality disorder may appear to experience “breaks” between their mood swings.
What causes Borderline Personality Disorder?
As with most conditions, most experts agree there is no single cause of borderline personality disorder – albeit genetic and environmental factors, as well as brain chemistry, do play a role in the onset and progression of the condition, which is predominant throughout adolescence.
Borderline Personality Disorder often improves with age, and impulsive and anti-social behaviours tend to settle and reduce by the age of 30 to 40.
Signs and Symptoms
Borderline Personality Disorder is a complex psychiatric condition in which a person has difficulty managing their behavioural, psychological and cognitive impulses. Proper diagnosis is based on a clinical assessment by a mental health professional. Criteria of the disorder may or may not include the following:
Threats or attempts related to suicide or self-harm
Substance use or abuse
Risky sexual behaviour (i.e. unprotected sex, multiple partners, infidelity)
Other risk-taking behaviour (i.e. reckless driving, spending sprees, gambling)
Excessive neediness or fear of abandonment
Intense or chaotic relationships
Avoidance or lack of self-direction
Binge eating or other eating disorders
Extreme reactions to real or perceived threats
Feelings of depression or hopelessness
Low self-esteem or distorted self-image
Fluctuating sense of identity
Narcissism or superiority
Anxiety or nervousness
Paranoia or emotional detachment
Feelings of boredom or emptiness
Helping friends / family suffering from BPD
Sufferers of borderline personality disorder are impaired by their inability to cope with stress in relationships (i.e. rejection, criticism, disagreements) – which is why a cool, calm home environment can help to manage their condition. Listening is the best way to help an emotional or irrational person regain self-control, and it’s important to acknowledge your loved one’s feelings.
Borderline Personality Disorder can not only be tough to recognise, but managing its symptoms and coping with day-to-day life can also be difficult. The stigma attached to the condition is unfair, and strong emotions and impulses exhibited by sufferers can make it difficult for friends and extended family members to be supportive or understand. If your child, friend, or partner has been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, it’s important to build up a solid support base for your own wellbeing too.