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Understanding BPD

imagesBorderline personality disorder (BPD) is a mental illness marked by unstable moods, behavior and relationships.  People with BPD feel the same emotions other people do. They do many things that other people do. The difference is that they feel things intensely, act in extreme ways and have difficulty regulating their emotions and behavior.  The following article talks about the causes, symptoms and treatment of BPD.


What is Borderline Personality Disorder:

According to, “BPD is a serious emotional condition, typically with a tendency towards unstable and turbulent emotions, heightened anger, feelings of emptiness, and fears of being left alone. An individual with borderline personality disorder finds it hard to cope with limiting demands of the world around them. They will often take impulsive actions, and as a result, have relationships which become chaotic and unstable. The sufferer’s sense of identity may be affected, and relationships with work colleagues, friends and household members may turbulent. A BPD patient may seem calm and serene one moment, and then suddenly explode in outbursts of anger or rage at what they may perceive as disapproval or rejection.”

Signs and Symptoms: 

According to the DSM-IV, to be diagnosed with BPD, an individual must show a pattern of behavior that includes at least 5 of the following:

1) Extreme reactions to abandonment whether real or perceived.

2) A pattern  of intense relationships often from extreme closeness to extreme dislike.

3) Unstable or distorted self image or sense of self which can result in changes in feelings, opinions and values.

4) Dangerous behavior and impulsiveness

5) Recurring suicidal behavior or self harming behavior

6) Chronic feeling of emptiness or boredom

7) Intense moods that are highly changeable.

Simple events may trigger symptoms.  They may see anger in a neutral way and have strong reactions to words with negative meanings than people who do not have the behavior. BPD usually begins during adolescents and early adulthood.


Genetic and environmental factors seem to be involved. Social and cultural factors may increase the risk for BPD. Adults with BPD are more likely to be the victim of violence such as rape and other crimes.


Although BPD is difficult to treat, many people with this disorder improve. BPD can be treated with talk therapy which can help relieve some of the symptoms. Cognitive behavior therapy can help people with BPD to identify and change core beliefs or behaviors that are inaccurate perceptions of themselves and others. Dialectical behavior therapy can also be used which focuses on mindfulness or being aware of the current situation. It teaches the individual skills to control intense emotions, improve relationships and reduce self destructive behavior. In some cases medications can be also be used to treat this disorder.

Families of people with BPD may also benefit from therapy. According to NIH, “some therapies, such as DBT-family skills training (DBT-FST), include family members in treatment sessions. These types of programs help families develop skills to better understand and support a relative with BPD. Other therapies, such as Family Connections, focus on the needs of family members. More research is needed to determine the effectiveness of family therapy in BPD. Studies with other mental disorders suggest that including family members can help in a person’s treatment.”


Understanding BPD

Helen Nieves

Helen Nieves is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Certified Attention Deficit Consultant Specialist. She teaches ADHD on line and is on the Advisory Board at The American Institute of Health Care Professionals. She also received advanced training in Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy and in Grief Counseling.

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APA Reference
Nieves, H. (2015). Understanding BPD. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 2, 2020, from


Last updated: 16 Apr 2015
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