8 Major Signs of Borderline Personality Disorder

What do you think of when you hear the term “borderline?” What comes to mind for you? For a lot of people, “borderline” means “split,” “switchable,” “unstable,” or “unsure and confused.” In some ways this is true. Individuals with borderline personality disorder (BPD) struggle with managing emotions, making proper decisions, controlling their impulses, focuses on the broader picture (ignoring the narrow, negative view of things), and maintaining positive and healthy relationships.

But BPD is so much more than just this. It is a way the person has learned to communicate and manage (to the best of their ability) their emotions, thoughts, and behaviors.

This article will discuss some telltale signs of BPD.

Individuals diagnosed with BPD can display symptoms similarly to or differently from other people. Some people experience the diagnosis as “earth-shattering,” while other people may seem very in control and “together,” often not displaying too many symptoms in public. This is what makes diagnosis so very difficult. The clinical picture of BPD can vary greatly across cultures, age groups, genders, and socio-economic status.

I previously trained an intern who saw a client who had a very controlling step-mother.  She truly believed her step-daughter had BPD traits and wouldn’t take “no” for an answer. She would come to every session saying “see, she’s like all the other borderlines” or “this is how they act.” While there is sometimes clear signs of the disorder, there are often times when signs are unclear.

For individuals struggling with BPD traits, therapy can take months if not years to identify, work through, treat, and heal from.

BPD is a very challenging and complex disorder to treat. Dr. Blaise Aguirre, a recognized child and adolescent researcher of BPD, states that about 11% of clients with the disorder end up in outpatient settings, while about 20% are in inpatient settings with a comorbid diagnosis. For example, someone with BPD may also have severe depression, anxiety, or ADHD.

I truly believe, after almost 10 years practicing psychotherapy, that there are often 8 major signs of borderline personality disorder that parents and families should look out for. Those 8 signs often include:

    • Emotional chaos and mood lability: It is likely that you know someone who is struggling with symptoms of borderline personality disorder. In fact, the National Institute of Mental Health estimates that about 1.6% of the adult U.S. population has BPD. Affective instability, dysphoria, fears of abandonment, confusion over identity as a person, low self-esteem, lack of confidence, feelings of inadequacy, feelings of emptiness, and chronic anxiety or depression are often the hallmark features of BPD. According to the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation (2017)
 “For people affected by BPD and their families, both science and psychotherapy are teaching us some things that may not be intuitive, so getting access to experts can be really useful.  For just one example, science has taught us that people with BPD interpret a lot of other peoples’ emotions and statements as highly negative and critical.  Trained psychotherapists and informed family members who know about this “negative attribution bias” can help the affected person understand that their intentions are actually not so negative.  People with BPD can learn consider and weigh the possibility of negative attribution bias when faced with people who seem very critical or angry. “

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