What is BPD?

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), also known as Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder, is a crippling personality disorder. Wikipedia classifies it as a cluster B personality disorder, which is defined by the American Psychiatric Association as the cluster of dramatic, emotional, and/or erratic disorders. The disorder is what its alternate name describes – emotionally unstable emotions that fluctuate and leave the affected person in a constant pattern of ever-changing thoughts and feelings.

About 1.6% of the U.S. population is diagnosed with BPD and continues to have it. U.K. demographics show that about 0.7% of the population is diagnosed, and Canada’s rate is unknown. Some sites claim that BPD is the most commonly diagnosed personality disorder and that more women are diagnosed than men.

Different symptoms of the disorder are described depending on which site you visit, but there are nine main criterions that are consistent with the disorder. A person needs to be diagnosed with five out of the nine criterions in order to be diagnosed with BPD. The following symptoms are taken from the National Institute of Mental Health’s BPD page:

  • Extreme reactions—including panic, depression, rage, or frantic actions—to abandonment, whether real or perceived
  • A pattern of intense and stormy relationships with family, friends, and loved ones, often veering from extreme closeness and love (idealization) to extreme dislike or anger (devaluation)
  • Distorted and unstable self-image or sense of self, which can result in sudden changes in feelings, opinions, values, or plans and goals for the future (such as school or career choices)
  • Impulsive and often dangerous behaviors, such as spending sprees, unsafe sex, substance abuse, reckless driving, and binge eating
  • Recurring suicidal behaviors or threats or self-harming behavior, such as cutting
  • Intense and highly changeable moods, with each episode lasting from a few hours to a few days
  • Chronic feelings of emptiness and/or boredom
  • Inappropriate, intense anger or problems controlling anger
  • Having stress-related paranoid thoughts or severe dissociative symptoms, such as feeling cut off from oneself, observing oneself from outside the body, or losing touch with reality

If you are concerned about having BPD, don’t self-diagnose! Talk to a professional. There is no specific test that tests for BPD – doctors and other qualified persons diagnose based on observing the patterns and behaviors that are reported and noted about an individual over a period of time. The period of time that is observed is anywhere from a few months to a few years.

Treatment for BPD is still being researched and tested, as there is no known cure for BPD at the time of this writing. Many people have had the most successful treatment of the disorder with dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), which helps teach effective coping skills and mindfulness techniques to an individual. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which teaches an individual how to challenge defeating and/or challenging thoughts and behaviors with positive action, has also been successful in helping those with BPD as well. Medications used in conjunction with therapy also seems to help most people cope with particular symptoms of the disorder, but there is no set medication made for treating BPD, so those who wish to take medication to assist with symptoms should talk with a doctor.

There are a lot of excellent resources for people to learn more about BPD. The following list is not all of the resources available, but ones that go into more detail about the specifics of BPD and do a wonderful job explaining the nature of the disorder:

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