- What is borderline personality disorder?
- What are the symptoms of borderline personality disorder?
- When does borderline personality disorder start?
- What illnesses often co-exist with borderline personality disorder?
- What are the risk factors for borderline personality disorder?
- How is borderline personality disorder diagnosed?
- How is borderline personality disorder treated?
- How can I help a friend or relative who has borderline personality disorder?
- How can I help myself if I have borderline personality disorder?
- Where can I go for help?
- What if I or someone I know is in crisis?
- For more information on borderline personality disorder
What are the symptoms of borderline personality disorder?
According to the DSM, Fourth Edition, Text Revision (DSM-IV-TR), to be diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, a person must show an enduring pattern of behavior that includes at least five of the following symptoms:
- Extreme reactions—including panic, depression, rage, or frantic actions—to abandonment, whether real or perceived
- A pattern of intense and stormy relationships with family, friends, and loved ones, often veering from extreme closeness and love (idealization) to extreme dislike or anger (devaluation)
- Distorted and unstable self-image or sense of self, which can result in sudden changes in feelings, opinions, values, or plans and goals for the future (such as school or career choices)
- Impulsive and often dangerous behaviors, such as spending sprees, unsafe sex, substance abuse, reckless driving, and binge eating
- Recurring suicidal behaviors or threats or self-harming behavior, such as cutting
- Intense and highly changeable moods, with each episode lasting from a few hours to a few days
- Chronic feelings of emptiness and/or boredom
- Inappropriate, intense anger or problems controlling anger
- Having stress-related paranoid thoughts or severe dissociative symptoms, such as feeling cut off from oneself, observing oneself from outside the body, or losing touch with reality.
Seemingly mundane events may trigger symptoms. For example, people with borderline personality disorder may feel angry and distressed over minor separations—such as vacations, business trips, or sudden changes of plans—from people to whom they feel close. Studies show that people with this disorder may see anger in an emotionally neutral face5 and have a stronger reaction to words with negative meanings than people who do not have the disorder.6
Suicide and Self-harm
Self-injurious behavior includes suicide and suicide attempts, as well as self-harming behaviors, described below. As many as 80 percent of people with borderline personality disorder have suicidal behaviors,7 and about 4 to 9 percent commit suicide.4,7
Suicide is one of the most tragic outcomes of any mental illness. Some treatments can help reduce suicidal behaviors in people with borderline personality disorder. For example, one study showed that dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) reduced suicide attempts in women by half compared with other types of psychotherapy, or talk therapy. DBT also reduced use of emergency room and inpatient services and retained more participants in therapy, compared to other approaches to treatment.7 For more information about DBT, see the section, "How is borderline personality disorder treated?"
Unlike suicide attempts, self-harming behaviors do not stem from a desire to die. However, some self-harming behaviors may be life threatening. Self-harming behaviors linked with borderline personality disorder include cutting, burning, hitting, head banging, hair pulling, and other harmful acts. People with borderline personality disorder may self-harm to help regulate their emotions, to punish themselves, or to express their pain.8 They do not always see these behaviors as harmful.