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Borderline personality disorder (BPD)

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

Mae'r dudalen hon hefyd ar gael yn Gymraeg. This link will take you to a Welsh translation of this page.

Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is also known as emotionally unstable personality disorder (EUPD). If you clicked on BPD or EUPD in our mental health A-Z then you've reached the right page. It's your choice which of these terms you want to use, but your doctor or care team might use either.

People have different views on BPD/EUPD, and it can be a controversial diagnosis. But however you understand your experiences, and whatever terms you prefer to use (if any), the important thing to remember is that the feelings and behaviours associated with BPD/EUPD are very difficult to live with, and deserve understanding and support.

We hope you will find the information in these pages useful when considering different options for care and support. 

What is borderline personality disorder (BPD)?

Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a type of personality disorder.

You might be diagnosed with a personality disorder if you have difficulties with how you think and feel about yourself and other people, and are having problems in your life as a result.

"Everything in the world hurts more than it seems to for everyone else and any 'thick skin' [I am] supposed to have just isn't there."

When is BPD diagnosed?

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 to suddenly feeling low and sad).
  • You don't have a strong sense of who you are, and it can change significantly depending on who you're with.
  • You find it very hard to make and keep stable relationships.
  • You feel empty a lot of the time.
  • You act impulsively and do things that could harm you (such as binge eating, using drugs or driving dangerously).
  • You often self-harm or have suicidal feelings.
  • You have very intense feelings of anger, which are really difficult to control.
  • When very stressed, you may also experience paranoia or dissociation.

"The worst part of my BPD is the insecure relationships…when I am attached to someone, they are my whole world and it is crippling. I care so deeply about how long they take to reply to an email, or their tone of voice, because I'm so afraid of losing them."

Different views on diagnosis

Because you only need to experience five of these difficulties to be given a diagnosis of BPD or EUPD, it can be a very broad diagnosis which includes lots of different people with very different experiences.

Some people find it helpful to have a diagnosis because they feel it explains and helps people to understand their difficulties, or gives them a sense of relief and validation.

Others feel their diagnosis isn't helpful, disagreeing entirely with the current system of diagnosing personality disorders and finding it stigmatising and unhelpful. For example, some people prefer not to describe their experiences as medical problems, or would rather see them as a response to difficult life events. Our page on why personality disorder is a controversial diagnosis has more information.

"Even though I haven't been offered much support, just having a diagnosis helps me feel my suffering is validated."

What's it like to have BPD?

Lechelle and Debbie talk about having borderline personality disorder and how a combination of medication and dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT) has helped them develop the skills to manage it.

"I don't necessarily tell people I have BPD because I don't like labelling myself, I just say I have depression and anxiety because it's easier. But I know I have BPD. I feel things so intensely sometimes it means I lose control of all my senses. It's one of the worst feelings, but I have learnt how to cope with it."

This information was published in January 2018. 

This page is currently under review. All content was accurate when published. 

References and bibliography available on request.

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