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Recognizing Borderline Personality Disorder

In part five, you will learn about the traits and types of this Cluster B personality disorder; how to recognize it, and what to do when interacting with people in your life who may have it! Keep listening for additional episodes as Dr. Phil addresses all of your questions about this disorder, and more!

“Sometimes you get really frustrated with people and you’re wondering, is it you or is it them? You might very well be dealing with a borderline personality"

This series addresses mental health disorders; how to recognize it, establish boundaries, and how to coexist with those in your life who may have it with tools and guidelines that can help minimize damage to oneself and loved ones.


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Borderline personality disorder: a pattern of instability in personal relationships, intense emotions, poor self-image and impulsivity. A person with borderline personality disorder may go to great lengths to avoid being abandoned, have repeated suicide attempts, display inappropriate intense anger or have ongoing feelings of emptiness.

Source: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5). American Psychiatric Association. (2013).

What causes borderline personality disorder (BPD)?

Healthcare providers believe borderline personality disorder (BPD) results from a combination of genes and environmental factors. Causes of BPD include:

  • Abuse and trauma: People who have been sexually, emotionally or physically abused have a higher risk of BPD. Neglect, mistreatment or separation from a parent also raises the risk.

  • Genetics: Borderline personality disorder runs in families. If you have a family history of BPD, you’re more likely to develop the condition.

  • Differences in the brain: In people with BPD, the parts of the brain that control emotion and behavior don’t communicate properly. These problems affect the way the brain works.

What are the symptoms of borderline personality disorder (BPD)?

Symptoms of borderline personality disorder (BPD) usually appear in the late teenage years or early adulthood. A troubling event or stressful experience can trigger symptoms or make them worse. Over time, symptoms usually decrease and may go away completely.

Some people have a handful of BPD symptoms, while others have many. Symptoms can range from manageable to very severe. Because BPD symptoms are similar to those of bipolar disorder, people sometimes confuse the two conditions. The most common signs of BPD include:

  • Frequent and intense mood swings: If you have BDP, you may experience sudden changes in how you feel about others, yourself and the world around you. Irrational emotions — including uncontrollable anger, fear, anxiety, hatred, sadness and love — change frequently and suddenly. You may be quick to lash out at others and have trouble calming down when you’re upset.

  • Fear of abandonment: It’s common for people with BPD to feel uncomfortable with being alone. They have a strong fear of being abandoned or rejected. They might track their loved ones’ whereabouts or stop them from leaving. Or they might push people away before getting too close to avoid rejection.

  • Difficulty maintaining relationships: People with BPD find it challenging to keep healthy personal relationships. Their friendships, marriages and relationships with family members are often chaotic and unstable.

  • Impulsive and dangerous behavior: Episodes of reckless driving, fighting, gambling, substance abuse and unsafe sexual activity are common among people with BPD. Self-destructive behavior can be difficult or impossible to control.

  • Self-harm: People with BPD may cut, burn or injure themselves (self-injury) or have suicidal thoughts. They have a distorted or unclear self-image and often feel guilty or ashamed. They also tend to sabotage their own progress. For instance, they may fail a test on purpose, ruin relationships or get fired from a job.

  • Depression: Many people with BPD feel sad, bored, unfulfilled or “empty.” Feelings of worthlessness and self-loathing are common, too.

  • Paranoia: If you have BPD, you may worry that people don’t like you or want to spend time with you. People with BPD may feel confused, lose touch with reality or have “out-of-body” experiences.

Source: Cleveland Clinic 10/14/2020

Warning Signs of Suicide

Borderline personality disorder is associated with a significantly higher rate of self-harm and suicidal behavior than the general public. Knowing the warning signs for suicide and how to get help can help save lives. #shareNIMH

5 Action Steps for Helping Someone in Emotional Pain

People with borderline personality disorder who are thinking of harming themselves or attempting suicide need help right away. Learn about what to do if you think someone might be at risk for self-harm by taking these 5 action steps: #shareNIMH

Let’s Talk About Borderline Personality Disorder

Help raise awareness about borderline personality disorder by sharing informational materials based on the latest research. Share science. Share hope. #shareNIMH


New Hope for People with Borderline Personality Disorder. Bockian, Neil R., Porr, Valerie and Nora, Elizabeth. Villagran.Roseville, CA: Prima, 2002.

You Need Help! – A Step-by-step Plan to Convince a Loved One to Get Counseling. Komrad, Mark S., MD. Center City, MN: Hazelden, 2012.

Mindfulness and Meditation: Your Questions Answered Aguirre, Blaise. Santa Barbara, CA: Greenwood, 2018.

Psychopath vs Malignant Narcissist

Narcissistic Tactics


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