What are Personality Disorders?

Personality disorders are different from other types of mental illness. People with personality disorders often have a hard time accepting that the way their mind works is atypical. Their emotions and reactions to certain situations are different from people without the disorder. People who suffer from depression or trauma usually know that they are experiencing symptoms and don’t feel “normal.” Conversely, people with personality disorders are often unaware that anything is wrong. Issues stemming from their disorder can cause these people’s relationships to suffer. People with personality disorders have difficulty handling stress and will often blame others for their problems.

What is Borderline Personality Disorder?

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is one of the most common Personality Disorders. The National Comorbidity Study Replication (NCS-R) reports that 9.1% of the population has some form of a Personality Disorder. Borderline Personality Disorder affects 1.4% of the adult US population. The symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder often involve some degree of instability in work and personal relationships. A person with BPD will typically engage in impulsive behavior and have issues with emotional regulation. These symptoms general emerge in a person’s teenage and young adulthood years and can last for the rest of their lives. 

If you have a friend or family member who has Borderline Personality Disorder, you may endure some turbulent times. People with BPD often exhibit extreme reactions to ordinary circumstances. They can have intense mood swings and display dangerous behavioral patterns. Living with a person with BPD is frustrating at best and can be downright dangerous at its worst. Sometimes it can feel like the person with Borderline Personality Disorder is holding themselves hostage. They may threaten the worst types of self-inflicted violence. In this situation, dealing with a person with BPD can feel like a hostage negotiation. You may feel compelled to bend to their will to keep the peace. You might be manipulated into lending the person with BPD money or agreeing to behave as they would like you to even if it goes against your best interest.  

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Signs and Symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder

If this situation sounds familiar to you, you may have a loved one with Borderline Personality Disorder. The following are some signs and symptoms that your friend or family member may have BPD. Please keep in mind that BPD is a mental health diagnosis that must be determined by a medical professional.

Suicidal Ideation or Threats

Any threat of suicide should be taken seriously.  There are degrees of intent that can be used to judge the level of risk a person will successfully kill themselves.  However, even passing thoughts of suicide should be addressed by a mental health professional.  To get a better idea of what we mean by saying Suicidal Ideation, please refer to our Suicide Prevention page for information on how you can help a loved one.  Suicidality is very common amongst people with Borderline Personality Disorder.  The American Journal of Psychiatry reports that 60% – 70% of people with BPD attempt to commit suicide.  If you or a loved one are at risk of committing suicide.  Please seek help immediately.  The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available to help 24-hours a day.


Self-Harming Behavior, sometimes called self-mutilation, is the process of cutting, burning, or otherwise harming oneself. This practice can be challenging to understand from an outsider’s perspective. People who engage in self-harm do so in an attempt to release emotional pain or deal with overwhelming feelings. It may be hard to tell if someone you love is harming themselves because people usually do so in private. They will often also attempt to cover up the scars with clothing or accessories.  

Fear of Abandonment

People with Borderline Personality Disorder can have an unwarranted fear of being left by their loved ones.  This leads them to need constant reassurance that their loved ones still want to be with them.  They may seem “needy” and repeatedly ask if their friends and family members still care about them.  A person with Borderline Personality Disorder often needs to be consoled.  Unfortunately, this desire to ensure that their relationships are safe can sometimes push people away or attract the type of person who is manipulative or abusive.  If they feel that their needs are not being met in a relationship, it may lead to conflict.  A person with BPD can quickly switch from deep feelings of love to feeling like they’ve been betrayed and act out their revenge.

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Poor Self-Esteem

A person with BPD can also have a tumultuous relationship with themselves.  They may question their own abilities and be unsure of themselves.  People with Borderline Personality Disorder can be very hard on themselves and be disparaging when they talk about themselves to others.  They may not have a consistent personality and find themselves changing the way they act, depending on the people that they are around.  

Anger and Aggression

People with BPD can bring a level of anger and aggression to situations that don’t call for it.  There are many different forms of aggression.  Some people display it verbally, others become violent, and some people internalize their anger and brood silently.  A person with BPD will find themselves getting angry quickly and escalating situations seemingly out of nowhere.


A person with Borderline Personality Disorder will engage in impulsive and sometimes dangerous behavior.  These behavioral patterns often defy logic and reason.  A person with BPD may accrue large amounts of credit card debt, gamble irresponsibly, have promiscuous sex, use drugs and alcohol, commit petty crimes, or drive dangerously.  By behaving in this matter, they can put themselves at risk and jeopardize their personal and work relationships.

Emotional Instability

People with Borderline Personality Disorder often experience intense mood swings.  They may seem to be fine one minute and then fly off the handle the next.  From an outside perspective, it may be hard to tell what set the person off in the first place.  This is because a person with BPD doesn’t relate to their environment in the same way that people who don’t have BPD do.  They can become incredibly irritated and depressed as the result of an event or situation that others might not even notice.  People with Borderline Personality Disorder usually have a complex relationship with their emotions.  They can quickly flip from feelings of profound emptiness and hopelessness to hysterical rage.  When they are in this state, interactions, or interventions by their loved ones often exasperate the situation and make it worse.

How to Help a Loved One with Borderline Personality Disorder

The medical community still does not fully understand what causes a person to develop Borderline Personality Disorder.  Some evidence points to biological factors that can increase a person’s likelihood of having BPS if they have a family history of the disorder.  There are also some environmental factors that can contribute to the development of Borderline Personality Disorder.  Childhood abuse or a hectic home life can increase the risk of developing the disorder.  There may also be a physical anomaly in the brains of people with BPD that can decrease their ability to manage their emotions and impulses.   

People with Borderline Personality Disorder can learn to live with the illness through a combination of education and therapy.  By talking through their emotions and receiving feedback from a trained mental health professional, a person with BPD can make huge strides.  There is a path to recovery for people diagnosed with BPD.  They can immerse themselves in psychotherapy or attend a residential psychiatric treatment center like D’Amore Healthcare.  People with Borderline Personality Disorder can build the skills necessary to allow them to regulate volatile emotions.  With help, they can learn to manage impulsive behaviors and improve their ability to maintain healthy relationships. 

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