WHAT IS BORDERLINE PERSONALITY DISORDER?

Any condition that seems to define your personality as being, in some way, 'disordered' is never going to be a nice thing, but the term does NOT mean that there is anything wrong with you or your personality. Basically, Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) means that you will experience very strong emotions and find them hard to manage. It affects around 1 in every 100 people, so is more common than you might think.

We all have emotions (apart from Mr. Spock from Star Trek) and we all have to manage them on a daily basis. Anger, joy, disgust, sadness and fear all play a part in our lives (and would make a great animated movie - Copyright us). Emotions come and go and they gradually change throughout the day depending on what's going on around us. They can affect how we think, how we feel about things, how we interactive with other people and, to some degree, define who we are as people. There's no right and wrong checklist that makes us good or bad people because of the emotions we feel, they're just there.

People with BPD will experience much more dramatic mood swings. They can go from one to another in a very short space of time, with occasional outbursts of anger. They tend to be much more impulsive, doing things without thinking that they might later regret. They can also have short psychotic episodes such as hearing voices or seeing things that aren't really there. They may also be more susceptible to self-harm.

One of the other problems with Borderline Personality Disorder is the name itself. The term 'borderline' seems to imply that it's neither fully one thing nor the other. It's a historic one that seems to have stuck.

It was originally used by Doctors to define those they believed were on the border between two conditions; psychosis and, what they used to refer to as, 'neurotic mental health problems'. The latter is a term that isn't really used anymore but the 'Borderline' name has stayed with us.

Because of that, many people now prefer to call BPD by a more apt name; 'Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder' (EUPD) or 'Emotional Instability Disorder' (EID). Whatever you choose to call it, the condition and the symptoms are the same.

THE SYMPTOMS

Having Borderline Personality Disorder will mean that at least five of the symptoms below are present in your life for a prolonged period and cause a major impact on your day-to-day life. Because of this rather broad-ranging diagnosis, people with the same condition can experience BPD very differently. 

It's worth noting that BPD can only be diagnosed by a mental health professional, not your Doctor. If they suspect BPD, they may well refer you to someone who can help. The psychiatrist will be looking for at least five of the following symptoms:

  • Extreme reactions to feeling abandoned.
  • Long lasting feelings of emptiness.
  • Intense or highly changeable moods.
  • Paranoid thoughts when stressed.
  • Difficulty in controlling your anger, i.e. losing your temper or getting into fisticuffs.
  • Unstable relationships with other people.
  • Confused feelings about who you are.
  • Impulsive to the point of damaging your lifestyle, i.e. excessive spending, promiscuous, or unsafe sex, substance abuse, reckless driving or binge-eating.

WHAT CAUSES BORDERLINE PERSONALITY DISORDER?

You won't be surprised to hear that there isn't an exact cause as to why some people develop BPD and others don't. Like many mental illnesses, the cause is up for discussion, but usually involves a combination of a number of factors, many of which you can't do anything about.

It affects men and women equally, i.e. it's not gender-dependant, but more women are diagnosed with it because men tend not to seek or ask for help. Come on men, sort it out!

Many adults who go on to develop BPD may have had a difficult childhood. This could mean neglect or forms of physical, sexual and emotional abuse.

WHAT TREATMENTS ARE AVAILABLE?

The good news is that there are a number of treatments available for BPD. They will often include medication (naturally) but also forms of talking therapies, either in a group setting or one-to-one with your therapist.

You may also be offered a range of therapies including Cognitive Analytical Therapy (CAT), Mentalisation-Based Therapy (MBT) or other forms of psychotherapy.

It can be a shock to be given BPD as a diagnosis, but it can also mean that you know the condition and can get the help you need to get better. After all, that's the most important thing.


If you live with BPD or EUPD, there may be some organisations on our Where To Turn pages that can help you. If not, and you know of one, please let us know and we'll look into it.

Also, if you'd like to share your experiences of living with BPD / EUPD with our community so they can better understand how it feels, please take a look at our 'Men Tell' section.