What is borderline personality disorder?
Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a serious mental illness, one of a group of conditions called personality disorders. BPD is one of four personality disorders within Cluster B, the erratic and dramatic group of disorders.
People with these disorders have intense, unstable emotions and a distorted self-image. People with BPD also display unpredictable and impulsive behavior, have unstable relationships, and suffer from identity confusion. BPD can be summarized as an inability to regulate emotions, especially regarding relationship issues.
The instability often felt by people with this disorder can disrupt family and work life, as well as impact their self-identity. People with BPD are likely to have other mental health problems, as well, such as substance abuse, anxiety disorders, eating disorders, and depression.
BPD is more common in women than men. It usually surfaces in the teen years or early adulthood.
What causes borderline personality disorder?
The exact cause of borderline personality disorder is not known, but most researchers believe that it is caused by a combination of biological and psychological factors. People with this disorder might be born with a vulnerability to the disorder, which is then triggered by stress or other factors.
For example, research suggests that a malfunction in the brain might be responsible for the impulsiveness, mood instability, anger, and negative emotions that are common in people with this disorder. Psychological "triggers" might include childhood trauma, such as abuse, neglect, prolonged separation, or inconsistent parenting. A disruptive family life and poor communication within the family also are risk factors for the development of BPD.
What are the symptoms of borderline personality disorder?
People with BPD have extreme and long-standing instability in their emotional lives, which affects their behavior and self-image. Symptoms that are common in people with BPD include the following:
- Intense but chaotic personal relationships
- Unpredictable, dangerous and/or impulsive behavior, such as excessive spending, risky sex, reckless driving, substance abuse, shoplifting, and binge eating, or physically self-destructive behavior, such as self-injury or suicide attempts
- Rapid mood swings, and periods of intense depression, irritability, and anxiety (which might last only hours)
- Intense or inappropriate anger
- Confusion regarding self-image, sexual orientation, and choice of careers or friends
- Recurring feelings of emptiness and boredom
- Frantic avoidance of real or imagined abandonment
- Discomfort with being alone
- Brief periods of confused thinking and perception during times of great stress
- Extreme "black and white" views of people and experiences (They are either entirely good or entirely bad.)
What are the complications of borderline personality disorder?
Without treatment, people with borderline personality disorder are at greater risk for:
- Substance abuse
- Eating disorders
In addition, BPD is linked to high conflict, divorce, and separation from family members and friends. It also can lead to various financial and legal problems.