The Symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder

Medically reviewed by Jezreel Esguerra, MD · General Practitioner

Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. · Updated Nov 20, 2022

    The Symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder

    Borderline personality disorder (BPD) may sound like an odd name to call a mental condition, but the history behind its name sheds light on its nature. You see, BPD got its name from the early belief that patients are in the “middle” or “border” between having neurosis and psychosis.

    Basically, neuroses are mental conditions that don’t sever a person’s contact with reality. They include depressive disorders, anxiety, phobias, and obsessive-compulsive disorders. On the other hand, psychoses are different. People with a psychotic disorder often lose contact with reality since the mental condition involves delusions and hallucinations.

    Back then, people thought that neuroses were curable, while psychoses were untreatable. Now, though, we have a better understanding of what a borderline personality disorder is.

    What Is Borderline Personality Disorder?

    Borderline personality disorder is one of the several personality disorders acknowledged by the American Psychiatric Association.

    Personality disorders involve unhealthy patterns of behavior, thoughts, and feelings that usually begin in adolescence and early adulthood and persist for years. Left untreated, a personality disorder causes problems in the patient’s life, particularly in forming and maintaining relationships.

    Someone who has borderline personality disorder often has pervasive patterns of changing moods, behavior, and self-image. These patterns affect how they think, feel, and behave towards themselves and others, causing rifts in relationships.

    The Symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder

    People with BPD may have mood swings and uncertainties about themselves and their role in society. They also tend to see the extremes (i.e., all good, all bad) and suddenly change their opinion of others (i.e., friend today, traitor tomorrow). These shifts in thoughts and feelings could result in unstable relationships.

    Other Symptoms of BPD Include:

    • Intense fear of abandonment or rejection. People with BPD may even intervene excessively to avoid real or perceived rejection or separation. For instance, they might initiate physical or emotional intimacy or totally cut off communication, thinking they will be abandoned.
    • Sudden changes in how they see others. One moment they might be extremely close to a friend or family member; the next, they will show extreme dislike for the same person.
    • Unstable self-image.
    • Instances when they lose contact with reality; the period can last anywhere from a few minutes to several hours.
    • Impulsivity and risky behaviors, such as participating in reckless driving, unsafe sex, substance abuse, etc. Important: if these risky behaviors happen mostly when the person has an elevated mood, he or she may have a mood disorder and not BPD.
    • Responding through fear of separation through suicidal threats and behavior or self-injury.
    • Mood swings that persist for hours or days.
    • Ongoing feelings of emptiness or intense and inappropriate anger.

    Note on the Symptoms of BPD

    Please keep in mind that each person experiences borderline personality disorder differently. Some only have few symptoms, while others have many. Additionally, the symptoms of BPD could be triggered by ordinary events such as a loved one leaving for a business or leisure trip.

    Experts say BPD symptoms usually appear in early adulthood and might worsen in young adulthood. But it may eventually get better over time, especially with treatment.

    Treatment for BPD, An Overview

    Before, people thought it’s difficult to treat borderline personality disorder. But now, with evidence-based treatment, patients can experience fewer or less severe symptoms that can significantly improve their quality of life.

    Treatment usually involves psychotherapy or talk therapy, the type of which depends on the doctor’s assessment. The patient may also receive medication or be advised to get hospitalized, especially when they have risky behaviors or suicidal tendencies.

    Please keep in mind that it may take some time for the treatment to impact the person’s life positively, so experts ask both the person and their family to be patient and persevere with the treatment.

    If you or someone you know experiences the symptoms we discussed earlier, talk to your healthcare provider as soon as possible. If you have suicidal thoughts or images about hurting yourself, seek help immediately.

    Here’s a list of where you can get help.

    Learn more about Healthy Mind here.


    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Medically reviewed by

    Jezreel Esguerra, MD

    General Practitioner

    Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. · Updated Nov 20, 2022


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