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A to Z: Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)

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Borderline personality disorder is a mental health disorder characterized by instability in moods, relationships, behavior, and self-image.

More to Know

Personality disorders are mental illnesses that cause people to have trouble relating to situations, other people, and even themselves. There are a number of different personality disorders, and people often display symptoms of more than one kind.

People with borderline personality disorder (BPD) typically have very intense emotions, stormy relationships with others, trouble controlling their anger, rapid mood swings, and a distorted self-image that can change quickly. They often engage in dangerous behaviors, such as unsafe sex, reckless driving, binge eating, and substance abuse. Many people with BPD cause themselves physical harm, such as by cutting or burning themselves or even attempting suicide.

Borderline personality disorder is most common in young adults, although symptoms often start as early as childhood, and it occurs more often in women than men. Many people with BPD also have other mental health conditions like depression, bipolar disorder, or eating disorders. If it goes untreated, BPD can have damaging effects on relationships, jobs, school, and social activities. It can also become life threatening due to dangerous or suicidal behaviors.

Treatment for BPD usually starts with psychotherapy to help the person understand the symptoms and how best to manage them in everyday life. Doctors also may prescribe medications and hospitalization for severe cases.

Keep in Mind

Borderline personality disorder can get better with treatment, but it may take a long time, so it’s important for people with BPD and their friends and families to be patient. Establishing a positive, trusting relationship with a therapist can make treatment more likely to succeed. Families of people with BPD can also benefit from therapy that helps them cope with stressful situations and avoid actions that may make their relative’s symptoms worse.

All A to Z dictionary entries are regularly reviewed by KidsHealth medical experts.