Borderline personality disorder is a mental health disorder that impacts the way you think and feel about yourself and others, causing problems functioning in everyday life. It includes self-image issues, difficulty managing emotions and behavior, and a pattern of unstable relationships.
With borderline personality disorder, you have an intense fear of abandonment or instability, and you may have difficulty tolerating being alone. Yet inappropriate anger, impulsiveness and frequent mood swings may push others away, even though you want to have loving and lasting relationships.
Borderline personality disorder usually begins by early adulthood. The condition seems to be worse in young adulthood and may gradually get better with age.
If you have borderline personality disorder, don't get discouraged. Many people with this disorder get better over time with treatment and can learn to live satisfying lives.
Borderline personality disorder affects how you feel about yourself, how you relate to others and how you behave.
Signs and symptoms may include:
If you're aware that you have any of the signs or symptoms above, talk to your doctor or a mental health provider.
If you have fantasies or mental images about hurting yourself or have other suicidal thoughts, get help right away by taking one of these actions:
If you notice signs or symptoms in a family member or friend, talk to that person about seeing a doctor or mental health provider. But you can't force someone to seek help. If the relationship causes you significant stress, you may find it helpful to see a therapist yourself.
As with other mental health disorders, the causes of borderline personality disorder aren't fully understood. In addition to environmental factors — such as a history of child abuse or neglect — borderline personality disorder may be linked to:
Some factors related to personality development can increase the risk of developing borderline personality disorder. These include:
Borderline personality disorder can damage many areas of your life. It can negatively affect intimate relationships, jobs, school, social activities and self-image, resulting in:
In addition, you may have other mental health disorders, such as:
Personality disorders, including borderline personality disorder, are diagnosed based on a:
A diagnosis of borderline personality disorder is usually made in adults, not in children or teenagers. That's because what appear to be signs and symptoms of borderline personality disorder may go away as children get older and become more mature.
Borderline personality disorder is mainly treated using psychotherapy, but medication may be added. Your doctor also may recommend hospitalization if your safety is at risk.
Treatment can help you learn skills to manage and cope with your condition. It's also necessary to get treated for any other mental health disorders that often occur along with borderline personality disorder, such as depression or substance misuse. With treatment, you can feel better about yourself and live a more stable, rewarding life.
Psychotherapy — also called talk therapy — is a fundamental treatment approach for borderline personality disorder. Your therapist may adapt the type of therapy to best meet your needs. The goals of psychotherapy are to help you:
Types of psychotherapy that have been found to be effective include:
Although no drugs have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration specifically for the treatment of borderline personality disorder, certain medications may help with symptoms or co-occurring problems such as depression, impulsiveness, aggression or anxiety. Medications may include antidepressants, antipsychotics or mood-stabilizing drugs.
Talk to your doctor about the benefits and side effects of medications.
At times, you may need more-intense treatment in a psychiatric hospital or clinic. Hospitalization may also keep you safe from self-injury or address suicidal thoughts or behaviors.
Learning to manage your emotions, thoughts and behaviors takes time. Most people improve considerably, but you may always struggle with some symptoms of borderline personality disorder. You may experience times when your symptoms are better or worse. But treatment can improve your ability to function and help you feel better about yourself.
You have the best chance for success when you consult a mental health provider who has experience treating borderline personality disorder.
Symptoms associated with borderline personality disorder can be stressful and challenging for you and those around you. You may be aware that your emotions, thoughts and behaviors are self-destructive or damaging, yet you feel unable to manage them.
In addition to getting professional treatment, you can help manage and cope with your condition if you:
You may start by seeing your primary care doctor. After an initial appointment, your doctor may refer you to a mental health provider, such as a psychologist or psychiatrist. Here's some information to help you prepare for your appointment.
Before your appointment, make a list of:
Take a family member or friend along, if possible. Someone who has known you for a long time may be able to share important information with the doctor or mental health provider, with your permission.
Basic questions to ask your doctor or a mental health provider include:
Don't hesitate to ask questions during your appointment.
A doctor or mental health provider is likely to ask you a number of questions. Be ready to answer them to save time for topics you want to focus on. Possible questions include: