What Are the Symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder?

Borderline personality disorder (BPD) affects three major areas of your life: How you feel about yourself, how you deal with other people, and how you act.

Symptoms can include feeling like you're a bad person or invisible. The way you see yourself can shift quickly --  one minute you think you're a horrible failure, the next you feel incredibly confident. Your life plans and values are just as erratic.

You have a deep fear that you're going to be abandoned by others. The way you feel about people in your life can also change dramatically over a short period of time. One moment, you feel deeply connected to your friend. A few minutes later, you feel very distant. Most of your relationships are extreme and rocky.

Your actions may follow the same pattern. You may cut off a good relationship out of nowhere, quit a job without notice, or binge on food or drugs. When you're in the midst of a major mood swing, you drive too fast, weaving in and out of lanes dangerously, or you shop and spend too much. Your anger causes you to react harshly with your words or fists. These actions can lead to legal trouble.

If you see yourself with these symptoms, call your doctor. If they sound like someone you love, talk to them about getting help. If they don't agree or aren't ready, get help for yourself. For those with BPD, living in extremes is difficult, especially paired with a negative self-image. This can lead to self-destructive behavior and things like cutting yourself, or suicide attempts.

BPD can be tough to diagnose. It shares many symptoms with bipolar disorder. It used to be called manic depression. Just because you have some of the symptoms doesn't necessarily mean you have this disorder or any mental illness at all.

Some of the symptoms can point towards similar mental illnesses, like antisocial personality disorder, histrionic personality disorder, or narcissistic personality disorder. These symptoms may also be linked to substance abuse.

To get the most accurate diagnosis possible, your doctor can refer you to a mental health provider, such as a psychiatrist, psychiatric nurse practitioner, psychologist, or clinical social worker. During the exam, you'll be asked to talk about your medical history and symptoms.

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Because BPD may be passed down through generations, be prepared to answer questions about any mental health issues in your family. Some providers will recommend a physical exam or blood work, too. 

Treatment is likely going to be long-term.  There is no one medicine for borderline personality disorder and medicines are mostly used to treat symptoms.  Therapies, like dialectical behavior therapy or DBT, which can help a patient develop new skills for dealing with painful emotions and conflicts in relationships, are an essential part of treatment.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Smitha Bhandari, MD on April 18, 2019

Sources

SOURCES:

Mayo Clinic: "Borderline personality disorder: Symptoms."

Cleveland Clinic: "Borderline personality disorder."

National Institute of Mental Health: "Borderline Personality Disorder."

Johns Hopkins Medicine: "Borderline Personality Disorder."

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