Spotting Signs of Borderline Personality Disorder

Although symptoms of borderline personality disorder (BPD) are often intense and volatile, it is difficult to recognise the condition in yourself or a loved one, especially if you’re unsure of what you’re looking for.

Many mental health disorders and related issues such as substance abuse and self-harm often co-occur with borderline personality disorder. But sometimes, these more commonly recognised illnesses can prevent an accurate diagnosis from being made.

Due to the nature of BPD, people living with the condition often struggle to maintain relationships. This is partly due to behaviours caused by the disorder, such as ‘splitting‘, which affects how they feel about the people around them, such as friends and family members.

As a result, a person with BPD can seem erratic and unpredictable to loved ones, who never quite know where they stand. Unfortunately, this often causes people with BPD to push away those who want to help.

Recognising borderline personality disorder symptoms can help you encourage a loved one to seek a diagnosis and get the help they need. Likewise, if you recognise the signs of borderline personality disorder in yourself, speak to a mental health professional. Treatment is available; you don’t have to suffer in silence.

What Is Borderline Personality Disorder?

Borderline personality disorder is a mental illness that requires professional treatment and care. Personality disorders affect how a person thinks, feels, and behaves. BPD additionally profoundly impacts a person’s daily life, causing intense emotions, impulsive behaviours, and unstable relationships. This is especially true when left undiagnosed and untreated.

Signs of BPD can present from childhood, but a diagnosis is often not made until late adolescence or early adulthood due to the complex nature of the condition. BPD often causes unstable and erratic behaviour in a person that can be dangerous. Sadly, suicide attempts are common in those with BPD. But with the right treatment, effort can be made to avoid harmful outcomes.

Professional treatment is required for anyone with a diagnosis. However, the treatment needed will vary depending on a person’s needs. Some examples of BPD treatment include therapy and medication. A person with BPD will also need ongoing support from professionals and loved ones to successfully manage their condition.

At Addcounsel, we provide one-to-one care to treat BPD and other mental health issues. Talk to us about how we can help you or a loved one if you spot any signs of borderline personality disorder.

What Are Common Signs of Borderline Personality Disorder?

People with BPD tend to experience intense moods as well as self-destructive and impulsive behaviours, but there is more to it than that.

BPD can cause:

  • Emotional instability. Emotional instability is the most common symptom of BPD and includes intense moods and feelings of rage, shame, panic, loneliness, and emptiness.
  • Disturbed thinking. These thoughts include distressing beliefs, auditory hallucinations, dissociative symptoms such as feeling disconnected from the world, and psychotic symptoms, such as paranoia.
  • Impulsive behaviour. Impulsive behaviours include compulsive self-harm, attempting suicide, substance abuse, law-breaking, and unsafe sex.
  • Unstable relationships. These can occur through fear of abandonment and disturbed thinking.

People with BPD often turn to alcohol or drug abuse and self-harm to cope with thoughts and feelings that arise. These self-harming behaviours are extremely dangerous and should be taken seriously.

A person with BPD may also be self-destructive and extremely sensitive to criticism. They may additionally have an intense fear of rejection or struggle with self-image, impulse control, and mood swings such as explosive anger.

Knowing the signs of BPD could help yourself or a loved one seek professional advice. The earlier these symptoms are brought to the attention of a professional, the quicker a diagnosis can be made. With the right treatment and ongoing support, anyone can learn to manage BPD and live a better quality of life.

What Are the Diagnostic Criteria for Borderline Personality Disorder?

BPD looks slightly different for everyone, with some having more severe symptoms than others. When a diagnosis is sought, an assessment is typically conducted to examine a person’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviour. Whilst the idea of completing an evaluation can be daunting, any questions must be answered honestly.

The diagnostic and statistical manual criteria for borderline personality disorder are:

  • Intense fear of abandonment and making frantic efforts to not be alone.
  • Persistent intense and unstable interpersonal relationships which alternate between extremes of idealisation and devaluation (also known as ‘splitting’).
  • Unstable self-image and sense of self.
  • Impulsive behaviours, for example, self-harm, suicide attempts, risky sex, binge eating, and drug abuse.
  • Mood instability, including intense feelings.
  • Chronic feelings of emptiness.
  • Difficulty controlling anger.
  • Paranoia and severe dissociative symptoms.

As noted above, some symptoms of BPD can be dangerous. Although not everyone who lives with the condition will engage in adverse behaviours, substance abuse is common in people with BPD. Often, this is because many people use substances to self-medicate. However, this can result in addiction and long-term health issues.

Self-harm and suicidal gestures, for example, should always be taken seriously.

Spotting signs of borderline personality disorder

What Are Risk Factors for Borderline Personality Disorder?

Research has found some possible risk factors associated with developing BPD. These include:

Environment Factors

Possible environmental risk factors for BPD include poverty, a poor parent-child relationship, and childhood trauma such as traumatic events, child abuse, sexual abuse, maltreatment, and neglect.


It has been suggested that genetic factors contribute to BPD, and it can run in families. It might be useful to understand your family history and whether any immediate family members have a mental illness or personality disorders.

When Should I See a Mental Health Professional?

A BPD diagnosis requires a formal assessment. Not only does this ensure that an accurate diagnosis is made by a qualified professional, but it guarantees that appropriate mental health support is obtained.

In some instances, perceived BPD symptoms, such as impulsive behaviours, are actually signs of other personality disorders such as bipolar disorder. BPD also commonly co-occurs with other mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety. An assessment by mental health professionals will uncover the bigger picture.

If it has been suggested to you that you may have BPD or you have noticed that you are exhibiting any of the behaviours associated with this condition, reach out for professional advice by contacting us today.

What Do I Do if a Loved One Has Borderline Personality Disorder?

Due to the volatile nature of borderline personality disorders, it can be incredibly distressing not just for the sufferer but everyone around them. If a person exhibits severe symptoms and poses a danger to themselves or others, seek immediate help.

People with BPD often use ‘splitting’ as a coping mechanism for overwhelming emotions. Splitting sees a person with BPD place binary labels on people such as ‘good’ or ‘bad’, always ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, ‘loving’ or ‘never loving’. This can be difficult for loved ones of people with BPD, but understand this is part of the disorder and not personal.

As previously noted, borderline personality disorder, like all mental illnesses, requires professional treatment. As a friend or family member, you can only do so much. Encouraging someone with BPD to get help can go a long way.

If you are struggling with negative emotions regarding a loved one’s BPD symptoms, maintain boundaries and seek help for yourself, such as counselling.

How Can I Treat My Borderline Personality Disorder?

Borderline personality disorder is a mental illness that can only be diagnosed and treated by trained professionals.

Possible treatment for BPD includes:

  • Mood stabilisers
  • Therapy, such as cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT)
  • Addressing any co-occurring issues such as bipolar disorder, substance abuse, or depression
  • Ongoing support from professionals and loved ones

Although this condition can be challenging to live with, by securing professional help, you can learn to manage it better.

Secure Professional Help for Borderline Personality Disorder With Addcounsel

Although there is no cure for borderline personality disorder, at Addcounsel, we offer one-to-one bespoke care to help our clients learn healthy coping mechanisms and gain the skills needed to thrive.

We understand how challenging it can be to manage and treat borderline personality disorder, which is why we offer unique one-to-one care at our luxury London rehab centre.

Our trained professionals offer a variety of effective treatments and therapies, such as dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT), to provide you with the skills and coping strategies needed to live a fulfilling life.

To find out how we can support you or a loved one, call us today.


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