borderline personality disorder symptomsBorderline personality disorder (BPD) is a mental health disorder that often leads to impulsive and unpredictable behavior. Learn about the signs and symptoms of borderline personality disorder.

What Are Personality Disorders?

Personality disorders involve unhealthy and inflexible ways of thinking and behaving. People with personality disorders have trouble relating to people and situations. They often react in ways that seem extreme or abnormal to other people. People with personality disorders may believe their behavior is normal. They sometimes blame others for the problems they experience.

Personality disorders usually develop during the teenage years or early adulthood. Traumatic events in childhood may contribute to personality disorders later in life.

Borderline Personality Disorder Signs and Symptoms

Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a “Cluster B” personality disorder. Cluster B disorder symptoms include behavior and thought patterns that are:

  • Highly emotional
  • Impulsive
  • Unpredictable

People with BPD often have an unstable sense of self. The struggle with their sense of identity fuels “chameleon” behavior. They may pick up and drop new habits, interests or behaviors depending on who they’re with. People with borderline personality disorder tend to think in black-and-white. They have difficulty seeing shades of gray in situations and relationships.

Signs and symptoms of BPD include:

  • Mood swings, usually lasting a few hours or days
  • Inappropriate or intense anger
  • Difficulty controlling anger
  • Over-reaction to minor events
  • Impulsive thoughts and behavior
  • Extreme sensitivity to rejection, whether perceived or real
  • Fear of abandonment
  • Feelings of emptiness or worthlessness
  • Tendency to vilify or idealize others
  • Opinions of other people that change quickly
  • Pattern of intense or unstable relationships
  • Self-destructive behavior, such as risky sexual behavior, substance abuse or binge-eating
  • Self-harming thoughts and behaviors
  • Suicidal behavior or thoughts
  • Suicide attempts

Borderline personality disorder symptoms most often start during people’s youth. It’s common for people with borderline personality to have other mental illnesses. These may include mental health conditions like depression, anxiety or eating disorders. People with borderline personality disorder are also at risk for substance abuse.


It’s common for people with BPD to have episodes of psychosis. These often happen in response to extreme stress. Psychosis can include:

  • Paranoid or distorted thinking
  • Visual or auditory hallucinations
  • Feeling that what you’re experiencing isn’t real
  • Feeling detached or disconnected from your own body

People with BPD may have one or more of these symptoms. This can happen even if they’re not in a psychotic episode.

Risk Factors for BPD

There’s no single cause of BPD. A combination of factors can put people at risk for developing it. BPD symptoms are strongly associated with childhood trauma. Types of child abuse that can cause trauma include physical, sexual or emotional abuse. Forty percent to 71% of people with BPD say they were sexually abused during childhood. Triggers during adulthood can lead to BPD symptoms from childhood trauma. Genetics may also play a role. Genetics are a factor in many mental illnesses. Researchers are still exploring additional risks for developing BPD.

When BPD Is Misdiagnosed

Researchers estimate around 1.6% of people have BPD. That number may actually be much higher. Diagnosing borderline personality disorder (BPD) is complex. Sometimes mental health professionals don’t catch it right away because it shares symptoms with other mental health disorders.

Sometimes people with BPD initially receive a diagnosis of:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety disorder
  • Bipolar disorder

Symptoms of BPD can overlap with these mental health conditions. In other cases, people with BPD also have these other mental health conditions. This is called co-occurring disorders. It’s when you have two or more mental health conditions. Treatment is less effective when it doesn’t address both mental disorders.

Bipolar disorder is one of the most common misdiagnoses. This is because the two disorders share several symptoms, including:

  • Mood instability
  • Impulsive behavior
  • Psychosis
  • Suicide attempts

There are some major differences between borderline personality disorder and bipolar disorder. People with BPD have mood swings that cycle more frequently, sometimes several times a day. People with bipolar disorder may have episodes of mania or depression for weeks or months. People with bipolar disorder don’t usually struggle with some BPD symptoms like fear of abandonment.

BPD in Men and Women

It’s estimated that nearly 75% of people with a borderline personality disorder diagnosis are women, although that number may not be accurate. Evidence suggests that men and women might have BPD symptoms at similar rates. Men are more likely to be misdiagnosed with PTSD or depression.

BPD Isn’t Curable, but It’s Treatable

BPD can’t be cured. People can manage symptoms of borderline personality disorder. This happens through therapy and other effective BPD treatments. It’s possible for people with BPD to live full and satisfying lives. Find out more about treatment of borderline personality disorder. Call Lucida treatment center at: 844-874-8503.

This entry was posted on April 18, 2019 and modified on June 11, 2019
Krisi Herron

Medically Reviewed by

Krisi Herron, LCDC