Borderline Personality Disorder Symptoms and Effects

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder?

Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a complex psychiatric condition in which a person has difficulty experiencing her emotions and is often in a state of upheaval. Borderline personality disorder can be a distressing medical condition, both for the person who has it and for those around her.

Other signs and symptoms of borderline personality disorder may include:

  • very intense emotions that come and go frequently
  • episodes of extreme anxiety or depression
  • self-harming behavior, including self-mutilation
  • impulsive and risky behavior, such as risky driving, unsafe sex, gambling sprees or taking illicit drugs
  • inappropriate expressions of anger, sometimes escalating into physical confrontations
  • difficulty controlling impulses
  • emotional eating, including binge eating and purging, anorexia, or bulimia
  • suicidal behavior
  • fear of being alone
  • unstable sense of identity

What are the Effects of Borderline Personality Disorder?

A person with borderline personality disorder has an unclear sense of self, and often feels worthless or fundamentally flawed. Seemingly inexplicable anger, impulsivity and mood swings usually push others away, even though the sufferer wants to experience loving relationships. Borderline personality disorder affects how a person feels about herself, how she relates to others and how she behaves.

When someone has BPD, she often has an insecure and sometimes rapidly changing sense of who she is, which is referred to as identity diffusion. A person may view herself as evil or bad, and sometimes may feel as if she doesn’t exist at all. This unstable self-image often leads to frequent changes in jobs, friendships, goals, and values. It also one of the most common causes of the self-harming behavior and risk-taking behaviors associated with this disorder.

Borderline personality disorder can have significant effects on relationships, often causing them to be in turmoil. A person with the disorder will often experience what appears to be a love-hate relationship with others. She may idealize someone one moment and then dramatically shift to fury over perceived slights or even minor misunderstandings. This is because a person with borderline personality disorder has difficulty accepting gray areas and tends to see things in the extreme, as either black or white.

If you feel that you are in crisis, or are having thoughts about hurting yourself or others, please call 9-1-1 or go to the nearest emergency room immediately.

What are the Causes of Borderline Personality Disorder?

The cause of borderline personality disorder remains under investigation. Possible causes include genetics, environmental factors, and brain abnormalities. Some studies of twins and families suggest that personality disorders may be inherited. Many people with borderline personality disorder have a history of childhood abuse, neglect and separation from caregivers or loved ones. Some research has shown changes in certain areas of the brain involved in emotion regulation, impulsivity and aggression for people with such histories. In addition, certain brain chemicals that help regulate mood, such as serotonin, may not function properly in people with BPD.

Most likely, a complex combination of all these issues results in borderline personality disorder.

Increasing awareness and research are helping improve the treatment and understanding of borderline personality disorder. Emerging evidence indicates that behavior modification and emotion management techniques, such as dialectical behavioral therapy, can help someone with borderline personality disorder recover and live a happy, peaceful, productive life.

What Should Parents or Friends Say If They Are Concerned?

Borderline personality disorder is a serious medical condition that requires coordinated treatment by an experienced psychiatrist. Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center is a leader in treating women and adolescent girls for BPD, anxiety and eating disorders, and other co-occurring disorders. Read more about our borderline personality disorder treatment program.

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