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Borderline personality disorder

  • 1 person in 20is estimated to be living with a personality disorder
  • 78% of all in-patient personality disorder cases in the UK are diagnosed in women
  • Around 1 in 100people have borderline personality disorder

What is borderline personality disorder?

Borderline personality disorder (BPD), also known as emotionally unstable personality disorder (EUPD), is the most commonly recognised personality disorder. It is characterised by a pattern of emotional instability and unstable relationships with other people.

In general, someone with BPD will differ from someone without the condition when it comes to how they perceive themselves and relate to other people. For example, they might find it difficult to maintain steady relationships or fear being abandoned by friends and family.

Intense emotions that shift quickly and acts of self-harm are common, as well as impulsive behaviour (for example, substance misuse or risky sexual behaviour) suicide attempts, hallucinations or voices. These symptoms will range from person to person.

BPD tends to develop when people are in their late teens or twenties, however it is not formally diagnosed until after the age of 18. It is thought that, like most mental health conditions, it results from a combination of genetics and the environment someone grew up in. Many people with BPD may have experienced parental neglect, bullying or physical, sexual or emotional abuse during their childhood.

Diagnosing and treating borderline personality disorder

BPD is a very broad diagnosis, given to lots of different people with different experiences. Some find it helpful to have a diagnosis, as they feel it explains their difficulties or gives them a sense of validation. Others feel that a diagnosis serves to deepen the stigma.

There is no known way to prevent borderline personality disorder. However, it can be treated using a range of psychotherapies, including Dialectical Behavioural Therapy. These can help people learn skills to manage, accept and cope with their condition. While it is a lifelong condition, the symptoms of BPD may mellow over time. 

Need help?

Get information and advice on borderline personality disorder at NHS Choices. If you're having a mental health emergency find out who to turn to using our urgent help and advice resource.

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