Signs & Symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)

Education is an essential tool in the effort to heal from borderline personality disorder. The more you understand about the signs, symptoms, and effects of borderline personality disorder, the better prepared you will be to get help for yourself or a loved one. 

Understanding BPD

Learn about borderline personality disorder

Borderline personality disorder, or BPD, is a complex mental health disorder. People who develop borderline personality disorder will struggle with instability, impulsivity, and problems with self-image or sense of self. Symptoms of BPD typically appear by early adulthood.  

A person who struggles with borderline personality disorder will have intense fear of abandonment. This fear will not be proportional to the actual likelihood of being abandoned. Even small changes in plans can trigger the onset of panic or rage. These feelings can prompt impulsive, self-defeating behaviors such as self-harm or attempted suicide. 

Borderline personality disorder may prompt a person to engage in dangerous impulsive behaviors, such as binge-eating, substance abuse, gambling, unsafe sex, or irresponsible overspending. People who have borderline personality disorder are often involved in a series of intense but unstable relationships. 

Understandably, the symptoms of untreated borderline personality disorder can have a profound negative impact on a person’s ability to live a healthy, satisfying, and productive life. 


BPD statistics 

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and New York-Presbyterian Hospital’s Borderline Personality Disorder Resource Center (BPDRC) have reported the following about borderline personality disorder in the United States: 

Causes & Risks

Causes and risk factors for borderline personality disorder

Your risk for developing bipolar disorder may be influenced by a variety of factors, including the following:  

  • Having a parent or sibling who has struggled with borderline personality disorder  
  • Age (symptoms of BPD typically develop by early adulthood, and the disorder appears to be less common among older adults) 
  • Gender (BPD diagnoses are more common among girls and women than among boys and men) 
  • Abuse, abandonment, or other trauma during childhood 


Signs and symptoms of borderline personality disorder

The following are common signs that a person has developed borderline personality disorder: 

Behavioral symptoms: 

  • Frantic efforts to avoid being abandoned 
  • Engaging in a pattern of intense but unstable interpersonal relationships 
  • Impulsivity in areas such as sex, spending, substance abuse, binge-eating, or reckless driving 
  • Frequent displays of anger, including habitually getting into arguments and physical fights 
  • Making suicidal threats 
  • Engaging in self-harm 
  • Attempting suicide 

Mental symptoms: 

  • Persistent fear of abandonment, even when there is no legitimate likelihood that this will occur 
  • Alternately idealizing and devaluing the quality of your relationships 
  • Periods of dysphoria (profound unease or dissatisfaction with life) 
  • Temporary episodes of paranoia 
  • Anxiety and irritability 
  • Dissociation (feeling disconnected from your thoughts, memories, or sense of self) 
  • Unstable self-image  
  • Recurring thoughts of suicide 


Effects of BPD

Failing to get proper care for borderline personality disorder can raise your risk of experiencing a wide range of negative outcomes, such as the following: 

  • Strained or ruined friendships and romantic relationships 
  • Family discord 
  • Substandard performance in school or at work 
  • Academic setbacks 
  • Job loss and unemployment 
  • Financial difficulties 
  • Physical injuries due to impulsivity and anger control problems 
  • Legal problems due to impulsivity and anger control problems 
  • Social withdrawal and isolation 
  • Onset or worsening of co-occurring mental health disorders 
  • Thinking about or attempting suicide 

Entering a comprehensive treatment program for borderline personality disorder can reduce your risk for ongoing harm, and can help you begin to heal from past damage. With proper care, you can take important steps along the path towards a happier and more satisfying future.   

Co-Occurring Disorders

Borderline personality disorder and other co-occurring disorders

People who develop borderline personality disorder may also have an increased risk for the following: 

  • Depression 
  • Bipolar disorder 
  • Eating disorders 
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) 
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) 
  • Substance use disorders