Signs & Symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder

Oasis Behavioral Health Hospital helps individuals in Chandler, AZ diagnose and treat their mental health & addiction disorders.

Understanding Borderline Personality Disorder

Learn about borderline personality disorder

Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a serious mental disorder that creates significant emotional instability which can lead to a number of additional behavioral and mental health problems. People who have borderline personality disorder often have a significantly distorted self-image, may feel fundamentally flawed, and worthless. Even though people who have borderline personality disorder desperately want to have loving, fulfilling relationships, often their anger and frequently fluctuating moods push loved ones and family members away.

One of the biggest concerns for individuals who have borderline personality disorder is  the prevalence of self-harming suicidal behaviors that often accompany the disorder. Suicide is one of the most tragic and preventable outcomes of many different mental illnesses, and reports indicate that as many as 80 percent of people who have BPD have suicidal ideation – between 4% and 9% of these do complete suicide.

While, borderline personality disorder is an incurable mental health disorder there are many ways in which an individual can get their symptoms under control. With proper therapies, medication, ongoing support, and adherence to his or her treatment plan, many people who have borderline personality disorder are able to go on to lead healthy, happy lives.


Borderline personality disorder statistics

The average prevalence for borderline personality disorder is estimated to be 1.6%, but may be as high as 5.6% of the general population of the United States. In primary care settings, the prevalence rate of BPD is estimated to be 6%, while it averages at 10% among individuals seen in outpatient mental health clinics, and around 20% for those in psychiatric inpatient settings.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for borderline personality disorder

Research into potential causes and risk factors for BPD has indicated that there is likely not a single cause or risk factor responsible for the development of this serious mental health disorder. Instead, it is believed that BPD is the result of a number of causes and risk factors working together, including:

Genetic: Studies of twins and families with BPD suggest that personality disorders may be inherited or are strongly associated with other types of mental health disorders that may run in the family.

Physical: Some studies have suggested that changes are present within certain parts of the brain involved in emotional regulation, aggression, and impulsivity. Additionally, some of the neurotransmitters in the brain responsible for regulation of mood, including serotonin, may not function as well in those with borderline personality disorder.

Environmental: It has been noted that many individuals who have a history of childhood trauma, abuse, neglect, or separation from caregivers may go on to develop borderline personality disorder.

Risk Factors:

  • Being an adult woman
  • Being a young adult
  • Unstable family relationships
  • Being the victim of violence
  • Poor communication within the family

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of borderline personality disorder

Not each person who has BPD will experience the same symptom presentation; symptoms vary based upon presence of co-occurring mental health disorders such as depression, substance abuse, and individual genetic makeup. Many of these symptoms can be triggered by minor events – such as time away from those with whom they are close.

The most common signs and symptoms of BPD may include:


  • Risky, impulsive behaviors that may include driving recklessly, practicing unsafe sex, drug abuse, and/or gambling sprees
  • Mood swings
  • Angry outbursts or physical altercations
  • Difficulty maintaining interpersonal relationships
  • Frequent changes in job or schooling
  • Extreme reactions to real or perceived abandonment
  • Love/hate relationships with others


  • Awareness of self-destructive behavior, but feelings of inability to stop the behaviors
  • Difficulty controlling impulses or emotions
  • See things in extremes; black or white, no grey areas
  • Short-lived, stress-related paranoid thoughts


  • Short, intense episodes of depression and/or anxiety
  • Severe dissociative episodes
  • Insecure sense of self
  • Rapidly shifting sense of self
  • Feeling misunderstood, neglected, empty, alone, or hopeless
  • Fear of being alone
  • Self-loathing and self-hatred
  • Self-harming behaviors
  • Self-destructive behaviors
  • Suicidal ideation


Effects of borderline personality disorder

Borderline personality disorder – especially when untreated – can damage many areas of the individual’s life. BPD can lead to negative effects in intimate partnerships, at work or school, social activities, and feelings of self-esteem. Effects may include:

  • Divorce
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Physical altercations with other people
  • Sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
  • Abusive interpersonal relationships – as the victim or the abuser
  • Frequent changes in jobs, friendships, goals, and values
  • Suicidal thoughts or completed suicide

Co-Occurring Disorders

Borderline personality disorder and co-occurring disorders

Many people who have borderline personality struggle with other types of mental health disorders. The most frequently co-occurring, co-morbid mental health disorders include:

  • Depressive disorders
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Substance abuse
  • Eating disorders
  • Self-harm
  • Suicidal thoughts and behaviors
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