Get exclusive member benefits & effect social change. Join Today
Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a mental illness. It develops during adolescence or early adulthood. It’s marked by a pattern of emotional instability, impulsive behavior, distorted self-image, and unstable relationships. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, about 1.6 percent of adults in the United States have BPD.
Researchers are still trying to learn the exact cause of BPD. Multiple factors may contribute to the disorder, including genetics, environmental factors, and serotonin abnormalities.
BPD may be a genetic condition. A study on twins and BPD published in the Journal of Personality Disorders suggests the disorder has a substantial genetic component.
Growing up in an unstable, abusive, or neglectful environment may raise your risk of developing BPD.
Serotonin is a hormone that helps regulate mood. Abnormalities in serotonin production may make you susceptible to BPD.
You may be at risk of developing BPD if:
According to the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the following criteria are all signs and symptoms of BPD.
You must meet at least five of the official criteria from the DSM to be diagnosed with BPD.
If your doctor thinks you might have BPD, they will probably refer you to a mental health professional. They can make a diagnosis. They will ask you questions and analyze your emotional and behavioral history.
Your mental health professional may recommend one or more treatments for BPD, including psychotherapy, medication, or hospitalization.
Psychotherapy is the main treatment for BPD. Your mental health professional may recommend one of the following types: cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), and schema-focused therapy.
CBT helps you to identify and change unhealthy beliefs, behaviors, and inaccurate perceptions you may have about yourself or others. It teaches you healthy ways to react when you feel angry, insecure, anxious, or suicidal.
DBT teaches you how to recognize, be aware of, and accept your beliefs and behaviors. You also learn healthy responses to these behaviors .
Schema-focused therapy helps you to view yourself and the world in a more positive way.
Medication doesn’t cure BPD, but it can relieve symptoms. Your doctor may prescribe medication in addition to psychotherapy treatment. For example, they may prescribe:
If your symptoms are severe, your doctor may recommend that you temporarily stay in a hospital for treatment. You may also be hospitalized for suicidal behavior, suicidal thoughts, or thinking about harming yourself or others.
Omega-3 fatty acids may relieve symptoms of depression and aggression in people who have BPD. More research is needed to confirm the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids.
BPD may raise your risk of other disorders, such as:
Your BPD symptoms can also increase your risk of:
The outlook for people with BPD varies. You may face lifelong challenges associated with your BPD. At times, you may struggle with suicidal thoughts or self-harming behaviors. Following your doctor’s prescribed treatment plan is essential. It can reduce the severity of your symptoms and help you lead a safe and fulfilling life.
Written by: Rose Kivi and Marijane Leonard
Medically reviewed on: Mar 29, 2016: Timothy J. Legg, PMHNP-BC, GNP-BC, CARN-AP, MCHES
Enter your symptoms in our Symptom Checker to find out possible causes of your symptoms. Go.
Enter any list of prescription drugs and see how they interact with each other and with other substances. Go.
Enter its color and shape information, and this tool helps you identify it. Go.
Find information on drug interactions, side effects, and more. Go.