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Borderline personality disorder (BPD)

Explains borderline personality disorder (BPD), also known as emotionally unstable personality disorder (EUPD). Includes what it feels like, causes, treatment, support and self-care, as well as tips for friends and family.

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 if these difficulties make it hard to cope day to day.

Experiences of BPD are different for different people. You may experience emotions that are very intense, overwhelming or changeable. You may also experience difficulties with relationships or your sense of identity. Our page on experiences of BPD has more information on what it's like living with BPD.

Everything hurts more than it seems to for everyone else, and any 'thick skin' you're supposed to have just isn't there.

You may hear other names for BPD, such as:

  • Emotionally unstable personality disorder (EUPD)
  • Emotional intensity disorder (EID)
  • Borderline pattern personality disorder (borderline pattern PD)

It's your choice which term, if any, you use. People have very different views on BPD and there are ongoing debates about the diagnosis of personality disorders. Some people find a BPD diagnosis helpful or validating. Some find it unhelpful or stigmatising.

There's no right or wrong way to understand or describe your experiences. The important thing to remember is that you deserve support and understanding.

When is BPD diagnosed?

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

  • Feeling very worried about people abandoning you, and like you'd try very hard to stop that happening
  • Having intense emotions that last from a few hours to a few days and can change quickly (such as feeling very happy and confident to suddenly feeling low and sad)
  • Feeling insecure about who you are, with your sense of self changing significantly depending on who you're with
  • Finding it really hard to make and keep stable relationships, and often viewing relationships as completely perfect or completely bad
  • Feeling empty a lot of the time
  • Acting impulsively and doing things that could harm you, such as binge eating, using drugs and alcohol, or driving dangerously
  • Using self-harm to manage your feelings or feeling suicidal
  • Feeling intense anger, which can be difficult to control
  • Experiencing paranoia or dissociation in moments of extreme stress

The worst part is the insecure relationships. When I'm attached, they're my whole world – it's crippling. I care so deeply about how long they take to reply or their tone, because I'm so afraid of losing them.

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

Different views on diagnosis

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

Those of us who've been diagnosed with BPD have different views on whether the label is helpful. Some of us find it useful to have a diagnosis because we feel it explains and helps us to understand our difficulties, or gives us a sense of relief and validation. It may also be helpful for accessing treatment or support. Or to put a name to our experiences and connect with others.

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

On the other hand, some of us don’t find our diagnosis helpful. We may find it stigmatising and feel it suggests that there’s something wrong with who we are. It can also sometimes be a barrier to getting the support we need.

Then there are also some of us who disagree entirely with the current system of diagnosing personality disorders and prefer not to describe our experiences as medical problems. We may see them more as a response to trauma, difficult life events or problems in our society.

Our page on why personality disorder is a controversial diagnosis has more information.

I don't tell people I have BPD because I don't like labelling myself. I just say I have depression / anxiety. But I know I have BPD. I feel things so intensely sometimes that I lose control of my senses. It's one of the worst feelings, but I've learnt to cope.

This information was published in September 2022. We'll revise it in 2025.

References and bibliography available on request.

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