Borderline Personality Disorder

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Borderline personality disorder (BPD) causes dramatic, emotional, erratic and attention-seeking moods. It’s thought a result of a combination of brain chemistry, genetics and environmental factors. Certain experiences and types of stress may further increase your chance of developing BPD. Many BPD sufferers have experienced:

  • Childhood abuse
  • Neglect
  • Separation
  • Sexual abuse
  • Violence
  • Brain injury


People with BPD tend to be extremely sensitive to rejection. They may react with anger and be upset at even mild separation from friends or family. Symptoms often become more acute when people with BPD feel isolated and lonely or during times of particular stress.

Traits that are common to people with BPD include:

  • Fears of being left alone that result in frantic behaviors to avoid being left alone
  • Extreme mood swings and difficulty managing emotions
  • Difficulty in relationships characterized by dramatic swings viewing people as all good or all bad
  • Unstable self-image
  • Impulsive behavior
    • Excessive spending
    • Promiscuity, risky sexual behavior
    • Gambling
    • Drug and alcohol abuse
    • Binge eating
  • Repetitively injuring themselves through cutting, scratching or burning
  • Feeling misunderstood, bored and empty
  • Having deep-seated feelings of being flawed or bad in some way
  • Using defense mechanisms to avoid taking responsibility for behavior or to blame others
  • Unpredictable mood and difficulty regulating mood
  • Problems with anger management, manifested as periods of intense, uncontrollable and often unreasonable anger
  • Episodes of intense paranoia, dissociation or thought patterns bordering on psychosis


BPD is usually diagnosed in adolescents and young adults. BPD patients almost always have other mental health problems such as:

  • Depression
  • Alcohol or drug abuse
  • Eating disorders
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Compulsive spending, gambling, or risky sexual behavior



Individual, group and family therapy form the basis of BPD treatment. Therapy can help you:

  • Understand your behavior
  • Improve your ability to tolerate frustration, anxiety, loneliness and anger
  • Control impulsive behavior
  • Improve social skills

Family therapy may help family members deal with the effects of BPD.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) helps you to change patterns of thinking that are unproductive and harmful. This therapy also helps you identify possible triggers for panic attacks, such as a thought, a situation or even something that could cause an increase in your heart rate. 


Medication may be prescribed and adjusted based on your symptoms. Medication may include antidepressants, mood stabilizers or antipsychotic drugs.


Content was created using EBSCO’s Health Library. Edits to original content made by Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice.