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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.

This page is also available in Welsh.

"My experience is that I have to keep my emotions inside, because I get told I am overreacting. So I end up feeling like I'm trapped inside my body screaming while no one can hear me."

Difficult feelings and behaviour towards yourself

How you might think or feel

  • lonely
  • overwhelmed by the strength of your emotions and how quickly they change
  • like there is something inherently wrong with you, and that it's your fault if bad things happen to you because you deserve them
  • that you don't know what you want from life, or what you like or dislike
  • like you're a bad person, or not a real person at all
  • like you are a child in an adult world.

How you might behave as a result

"My BPD diagnosis affects every part of my life… my relationships, identity, career choices, moods etc. I've had such identity issues that I've changed my name twice by deed poll… it's a terrible, painful feeling to not know who you are. It is a real struggle some days to battle everything that is going on."

Difficult feelings and behaviour towards others

How you might think or feel

  • that friends or partners will leave you forever if they are angry or upset with you
  • like no one understands you, or you're not like other people and will never be able to understand them
  • that people are either completely perfect and kind, or bad and hurtful, and there's no middle ground (this is sometimes called splitting, or black-and-white thinking)
  • like the world is a scary and dangerous place, and you want to run away and hide.

How you might behave as a result

  • getting very angry or frustrated with people
  • struggling to trust people
  • wanting to be close to people but worrying they will leave or reject you, and so avoiding them
  • having unrealistic expectations of people or contacting them very frequently
  • ending relationships with friends or partners because you think they might leave you
  • anxiously looking out for signs that people might reject you.

See our page on self-care for BPD for some ideas on how to cope with difficult feelings.

"It feels like there is something missing from inside me and no one understands when I try to explain how I feel."

Alcohol and substance misuse

Some people with BPD might be more likely to misuse drugs and alcohol as a way of trying to cope with the difficult emotions they experience. You can find out more information, including where to get support, in our pages on the mental health effects of recreational drugs and alcohol. You can also access confidential advice about drugs and alcohol on the FRANK website.

"BPD can be exhausting. My mind is a constant rollercoaster of emotions but when the emotions are happy and exhilarating it is the best feeling in the world."

BPD and other mental health problems

It's common to experience other mental health problems alongside BPD, which could include:

"It took a long time to get my BPD/EUPD diagnosis because of also having other disorders, but I'm at a happy place now in life thanks to a variety of factors."

Experiences of facing stigma

Because BPD is a complex diagnosis that not everyone understands well, you might find some people have a negative image of it, or have misconceptions about you.

This can be very upsetting and frustrating, especially if someone who feels this way is a friend, colleague, family member or a health care professional.

But it's important to remember that you aren't alone, and you don't have to put up with people treating you badly. Here are some options for you to think about:

  • Show people this information to help them understand more about what your diagnosis really means.
  • Get more involved in your treatment. Our pages on seeking help for a mental health problem provide guidance on having your say in your treatment, making your voice heard, and steps you can take if you're not happy with your care.
  • Know your rights. Our pages on legal rights provide more information.
  • Take action with Mind. See our campaigning page for details of the different ways you can get involved with helping us challenge stigma.

Find out more about BPD and stigma on the Time to Change website.

"The stigma is the worst for me. I'm a caring and empathetic soul who would do anything for the people I love."

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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