Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)

Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a serious, long-lasting and complex mental health problem. People with BPD have difficulty regulating or handling their emotions or controlling their impulses. They are highly sensitive to what is going on around them and can react with intense emotions to small changes in their environment. People with BPD have been described as living with constant emotional pain, and the symptoms of BPD are a result of their efforts to cope with this pain.

It is very common for someone with BPD to have other mental health problems. These include:

  • Major or moderate to mild depression
  • Substance use disorders
  • Eating disorders
  • Problem gambling
  • Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Social phobia
  • Bipolar disorder.

Sometimes it can be difficult to diagnose BPD because the symptoms of the co-occurring disorder mimic or hide the symptoms of BPD. Relapse in one disorder may trigger a relapse in the other disorder.

Signs & Symptoms

The types and severity of BPD symptoms may differ from person to person because people have different predispositions and life histories, and symptoms can fluctuate over time.

Common symptoms include:

  • Intense but short-lived bouts of anger, depression or anxiety
  • Emptiness associated with loneliness and neediness
  • Paranoid thoughts and dissociative states in which the mind or psyche “shuts off” painful thoughts or feelings
  • Self-image that can change depending on whom the person is with
  • Impulsive and harmful behaviours such as problematic use of substances, overeating, gambling or high-risk sexual behaviours
  • Non-suicidal self-injury such as cutting, burning with a cigarette or overdose that can bring relief from intense emotional pain (onset usually in early adolescence); up to 75 per cent of people with BPD self-injure one or more times
  • Suicide (about 10 per cent of people with BPD take their own lives)
  • Intense fear of being alone or of being abandoned, agitation with even brief separation from family, friends or therapist (because of difficulty to feel emotionally connected to someone who is not there)
  • Impulsive and emotionally volatile behaviours that may lead to the very abandonment and alienation that the person fears
  • Volatile and stormy interpersonal relationships with attitudes to others that can shift from idealization to anger and dislike (a result of black and white thinking that perceives people as all good or all bad).

For more information, visit https://www.camh.ca/en/health-info/mental-illness-and-addiction-index/borderline-personality-disorder.

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