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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.

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

If you feel unable to keep yourself safe, it's a mental health emergency.

Get emergency advice

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's something inherently wrong with you, and that it's your fault if bad things happen to you because you deserve them
  • Like you're a bad person, or not a real person at all
  • That you don't know what you want from life, or what you like or dislike
  • Empty, numb or like you have no purpose
  • Like your feelings are impossible to understand or describe
  • Like you're a child in an adult world

How you might behave as a result

  • Self-harming or attempting suicide
  • Overspending or binge eating
  • Using recreational drugs, alcohol or smoking to try to cope with your emotions
  • Quitting just before achieving something, or avoiding activities where you think you might fail or be disappointed
  • Often changing jobs, hobbies, goals or plans
  • Keeping very busy so you're never alone

My BPD affects every part of my life – relationships, identity, career choices, moods. I changed my name twice by deed poll. It's a terrible, painful feeling not knowing who you are. A real struggle some days to battle everything.

Difficult feelings and behaviour towards others

How you might think or feel

  • That friends or partners will leave you forever if they're angry or upset with you
  • That people are judging or thinking badly about 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)
  • Wanting to be close to others but also feeling scared of close relationships
  • 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
  • Having unrealistic expectations of people or contacting them very frequently
  • Wanting to be close to people but worrying they'll leave or reject you, and so avoiding or pushing them away
  • Spending a lot of time thinking and worrying about things that other people say or do
  • Asking for lots of reassurance or testing people’s commitment or opinion of you
  • Distancing yourself from people or 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's like there's something missing inside me. And no one understands when I try to explain how I feel.

Problems with drugs or alcohol

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 more information, including where to get support, on our pages on recreational drugs and alcohol. You can also find confidential advice about drugs and alcohol on the FRANK website.

BPD can be exhausting. My mind is a constant rollercoaster of emotions. When the emotions are happy and exhilarating it's the best feeling in the world.

BPD and other mental health problems

It's common to experience other mental health problems and experiences 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 in life now thanks to a variety of factors.

Facing stigma about BPD

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.

Some people, even health professionals, can view BPD as something which is untreatable or makes people ‘difficult’ to help. This is unfair and untrue. You may have experienced mistrust, judgement, or a lack of empathy from people in the past. If you’ve been treated in this way, it’s understandable you may be worried about seeking help or telling people about your diagnosis.

For me, BPD is a label which acts as a disadvantage in life. It knocks my confidence.

It's important to remember that you aren't alone, and you don't have to put up with misconceptions. Here are some options for you to think about:

The stigma is the worst part for me. I'm a caring and empathic soul who'd do anything for the people I love.

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

References and bibliography available on request.

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