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Borderline personality disorder

a personality disorder that leads to unstable emotions, behaviours, interpersonal relationships, and self-esteem

Borderline personality disorder (BPD), also known as an emotionally unstable personality disorder (EUPD), is a mental illness that deeply impacts how a person thinks, feels and relates to others.

It is the most common personality disorder. In the UK, it has been reported to affect up to 1 in 50 people in one’s lifetime.  

You may be experiencing strong emotions, mood swings and feelings that you find difficult to deal with. This can make you anxious and worried, leading to problems with your identity and self-image and affecting relationships with others. 

If you live with BPD, you may find your way of coping with emotions is different from others around you and that these emotions are hard to control. You may find your feelings confusing, tiring and isolating. This can lead to other mental health problems, such as anxiety and depression

Myths about borderline personality disorder

People with BPD are just attention seekers

BPD is not just about seeking attention but stems from emotional instability and a fear of abandonment.

Individuals with BPD deserve understanding, not judgement. 

BPD is exclusive
to women

BPD can affect anyone, regardless of gender.

While it’s more commonly diagnosed in women, it’s crucial to recognise and support men with BPD too. 

BPD is untreatable

Contrary to the belief that BPD is untreatable, there are effective therapies like Dialectical or Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (DBT and CBT). With proper support, those with BPD can lead fulfilling lives.

People with BPD
are manipulative

A person with BPD may act impulsively out of desperation for help, but this can be misunderstood as manipulation.

While their reactions may look deliberate, they often have no control over their emotional response.

BPD is
a personality flaw

A diagnosis of BPD or any other personality disorder does not indicate a flawed personality.

Rather, it suggests a different way of relating to the world.

Symptoms of borderline personality disorder

Living with borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a highly individual experience. Diagnosis typically requires the presence of at least five (5) of the following symptoms: 

  • Persistent feelings of emptiness and abandonment 
  • Difficulty managing emotions and anger 
  • Frequent and intense mood swings 
  • Occasional paranoid thoughts 
  • Intense reactions to perceived abandonment 
  • Unstable relationships 
  • Conflicted self-identity and emotions 
  • Impulsive behaviours with potential harm, such as excessive spending, substance abuse, or reckless driving
  • Engagement in self-harm, harbouring suicidal thoughts, or engaging in self-destructive behaviours.

Every person’s journey with BPD is unique, and understanding these symptoms can help individuals seek appropriate support and treatment. For instance, those with BPD often experience money worries because of their symptoms. Managing money can become challenging, as individuals with BPD may encounter impulsive spending, turn to alcohol or drugs, and neglect to check their bank accounts.

Causes of borderline personality disorder

There is no single reason why someone develops BPD. BPD can be caused by stressful and traumatic experiences, genetic factors like having a family member with BPD, or a combination of both.

Stressful and traumatic life events might include:

  • Having experienced physical or sexual abuse or neglect during childhood.
  • Experience the loss of a parent or guardian at a young age.
  • Family difficulties or instability, such as living with a parent or carer who experienced an addiction.
  • Enduring prolonged periods of fear, upset, or invalidation.
  • Growing up in a household where someone had mental health problems such as bipolar disorder.

Treatment 

The most common treatment for borderline personality disorder (BPD) is talking therapy. Talk therapy can feel intimidating, but research has shown that it can be effective in helping BPD symptoms. 

Among the therapies used is dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT), which teaches alternative methods for coping with grief rather than harmful practices like substance use or self-harm. Another therapy often used when treating BPD is Mentalisation-based therapy (MBT). MBT aims to help you recognise and understand mental states and examine thoughts about yourself and others. 

There is no medication to treat borderline personality disorder (BPD). However, your doctor can prescribe medication if you have another mental illness besides BPD, such as anxiety and depression. 

“After being diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, I lost all my confidence and was not in a good place. I shut myself away from the world. Having Change Mental Health support has helped me to leave the house and regain that confidence and self-esteem.

“My self-management has improved and now I am delivering talks to Mental Health Nursing students at universities and colleges. Raising awareness of borderline personality disorder (BPD) will help other people and those with a mental illness to understand the condition more.”

Mo, who has BPD, receives support from our Kaleidoscope service in Dumfries. You can read her story here.

What can I do to help with borderline personality disorder?

  • Establish a routine: form a daily routine for structure and purpose, with consistent times when waking up and eating.
  • Practice breathing exercises: incorporate calming breathing exercises into your daily routine to regain control over your emotions.
  • Join a supportive community: connect with like-minded individuals by joining a supportive community or group to share your emotions.
  • Pause and reflect: take a moment before responding to things and consider your response patterns.
  • Reach out to a loved one: confide in a trusted loved one, sharing your feelings and knowing they care about your wellbeing.

support

The following organisations can provide support for you if you’re experiencing BPD:

Change Mental Health’s Advice and Support Service is open Monday to Friday, 10 am to 4 pm, where advisers can signpost you to local support that fits your needs, including our own services. We offer initial advice on money worries and help to deal with emergencies.

Contact 0808 8010 515, email us at advice@changemh.org or fill out the enquiry form on the Advice and Support Service page. 

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