Borderline personality disorder

Explains borderline personality disorder (BPD), including possible causes and how you can access treatment and support. Includes tips for helping yourself, and guidance for friends and family.

Your stories

A disordered personality?

Debbie talks about her experience of borderline personality disorder.

Posted on 30/07/2014

Borderline Personality Disorder: receiving a diagnosis

Lucy blogs for us about her experience of receiving a diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder.

Posted on 12/09/2014

Having a BPD diagnosis - my reality

Rebecca's account of being diagnosed with borderline personality disorder.

Posted on 21/11/2014

What is BPD?

Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a type of personality disorder. Personality disorders are a type of mental health problem where your attitudes, beliefs and behaviours cause you longstanding problems in your life.

It's scary. [...] One moment I'm really happy and then the next I'm crying for absolutely no reason or having a go at people. People think I'm just being moody for the sake of it.

What are the symptoms of BPD?

You might be given a diagnosis of BPD if you experience at least five of the following things, and they've lasted for a long time or have a big impact on your daily life:

  • You feel very worried about people abandoning you, and would do anything to stop that happening.
  • You have very intense emotions that last from a few hours to a few days and can change quickly (for example, from feeling very happy and confident in the morning to feeling low and sad in the afternoon).
  • You don't have a strong sense of who you are, and it can change depending on who you're with.
  • You find it very hard to make and keep stable relationships.
  • You act impulsively and do things that could harm you (such as binge eating, using drugs or driving dangerously).
  • You have suicidal thoughts or self-harming behaviour.
  • You feel empty and lonely a lot of the time.
  • You get very angry, and struggle to control your anger.
  • When very stressed, sometimes you might:
    • feel paranoid
    • have psychotic experiences, such as seeing or hearing things other people don't
    • feel numb or 'checked out' and not remember things properly after they've happened.

Because you only need to experience five of these possible symptoms to be given the diagnosis, BPD can be a very broad diagnosis and include lots of different people with very different experiences.

[For me] having BPD is like the emotional version of being a burn victim. Everything in the world hurts more than it seems to for everyone else and any 'thick skin' you are supposed to have just isn't there.

What does 'borderline' mean?

The term 'borderline personality disorder' came about because in the past, doctors used to think that you could be on the borderline between psychosis and 'neurotic mental health problems' (an old-fashioned way of describing all other mental health problems). Mental health professionals don't usually talk about mental health like this anymore, so if you get a diagnosis of BPD it can be hard to understand what it means.

Because of this, some people prefer to use the term emotionally unstable personality disorder (EUPD), as they feel it's a clearer description of the experiences you might have with this diagnosis. The terms BPD and EUPD both refer to the same mental health problem – it's your choice which term you want to use, but your doctor might use either.

Does BPD mean I have a bad personality?

If you're given a diagnosis of BPD, it's understandable to feel like you're being told that who you are is 'wrong'. But BPD does not mean that you're a bad person, or that you have a bad personality.

We all have both positive and negative personality traits, and we all have feelings and behaviours that can be useful at times and a problem at others. But if you experience BPD, some of your feelings or behaviours might be so difficult for you to manage that they're stopping you from living your life as you'd like to. Treatment for BPD can help you work out which thought and behaviour patterns are useful to you, and which aren't.

When I was diagnosed I felt like I was being told my personality was broken. It's through my friends and family's love and support that [I've come to see] my personality is still mine and not broken as I'd thought.

Who can diagnose me with BPD?

You can only be diagnosed with BPD by a mental health professional, such as a psychiatrist – not by your GP. If you speak to your GP about your mental health and they think you might have BPD, they can refer you to your local community mental health team (CMHT), who will be able to assess you. (See our pages on who's who in mental health to find out more about different mental health professionals).

After overcoming the initial shock of the diagnosis, it is actually a blessing because now I know what I need to do to get better.

This information was published in May 2015. We will revise it in 2018.

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