Signs, Effects & Symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder

Understanding the Signs of Borderline Personality Disorder

Understanding the signs of borderline personality disorder

Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a serious personality disorder that causes intense mood swings, severe problems with self-worth, and impulsive behaviors. The main feature of this disorder is a pervasive pattern of instability in interpersonal relationships, self-image, and emotions. The significant emotional instability associated with this disorder can lead to a number of other stressful emotional, cognitive, and behavioral problems. Men and women with borderline personality disorder tend to have severely distorted images of themselves; they feel worthless and terribly flawed. Due to the anger, impulsiveness, and frequent mood swings exhibited, individuals with this disorder often push others away, even if they desire long-lasting relationships.

Mostly occurring in early adulthood, those with BPD will make frantic efforts to avoid any real or imagined abandonment. Any perceptions that may suggest impeding separation or rejection, or the loss of external structure, can cause an individual to have prevailing changes in self-image, affect, cognition, and behavior. Due to their intense fear of abandonment, people with BPD have a pattern of unstable and intense relationships; often idolizing caregivers or lovers, demanding to spend a lot of time with them, and sharing their most intimate details early in the relationship. However, they may quickly (and without warning) switch from idealizing that person to devaluing them, feeling that the other person doesn’t give enough or is not there for them enough.

Identity disturbances are extremely common for those who have borderline personality disorder, and are marked by an unstable self-image and sense of self. People who struggle with BPD experience sudden and dramatic changes in self-image, including rapidly shifting goals, values, and vocational ambitions. In addition to an unstable self-image, these individuals experience impulsivity in at least two different areas of their lives that put them in danger of potential harm. They may engage in a variety of risky behaviors such as substance abuse, spending recklessly, or binge eating. They may tend to display recurrent suicidal behaviors or threats and, in some cases, these may be accompanied by non-suicidal self-mutilation.


Statistics for borderline personality disorder

The average prevalence for borderline personality disorder is estimated to be 1.6%, but may be as high as 5.6% of the general population in the United States. In primary care settings, the prevalence rate of BPD is estimated to be about 6%, while it averages at 10% among individuals seen in outpatient mental health clinics, and around 20% for those in psychiatric inpatient settings. BPD is predominantly diagnosed in females, with about 75% of individuals with BPD being female. Prevalence rates for this disorder usually decrease in older age groups.

Causes & Risk Factors

Causes & risk factors for borderline personality disorder

Researchers today are still not sure what causes borderline personality disorder, but many theories have been suggested. It is believed that there is not one single cause attributed to the development of borderline personality disorder; rather it is a result of a number of factors working together. Some of the most common ideas for the causes of borderline personality disorder include:

Genetic: Individuals who have a close family member that has borderline personality disorder or a similar personality disorder are five times more likely to develop the disorder than the general population. Borderline personality disorder is five times more common among first-degree biological relatives than the general population.

Physical: Some research has shown that there are changes in certain areas of the brain of individuals with borderline personality disorder. More specifically, the areas of the brain that involve emotion regulation, impulsivity, and aggression. Additionally, certain brain chemicals which help regulate mood, such as serotonin, may not be functioning properly in men and women with this disorder.

Environmental: There are a number of social and cultural factors that may increase the risk for the development of BPD. For example, living in a community in which family relationships are unstable can put you at an increased risk. Additionally, poor judgment, lifestyle choices, and impulsivity can cause an individual to be placed in risky situations that may precipitate the development of borderline personality disorder.

Risk Factors:

  • Being female
  • Childhood abuse
  • Neglect and abandonment as a child
  • Being a young adult


Symptoms of borderline personality disorder

There are a number of signs and symptoms that are experienced by men and women who are diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. While the symptoms may vary from one person to the next, the most common symptoms may include:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Out-of-control spending
  • Risky sexual behavior
  • Increased risk-taking behaviors
  • Self-harm
  • Violent temper tantrums
  • Recurrent physical fights
  • Harmful and impulsive behaviors
  • Substance abuse
  • Binge eating
  • Suicidal behaviors

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Fear of being abandoned
  • Loss of sense of reality
  • Paranoid thoughts
  • Unstable self-image or sense of self
  • Suicidal ideation

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Intense emotions
  • Paranoia
  • Mood swings
  • Low self-worth
  • Feeling empty inside
  • Affective instability
  • Feeling as if they don’t exist at all


Effects borderline personality disorder can have

If left untreated, the effects of borderline personality can be devastating, not only for the individual who is diagnosed with the disorder, but their friends and family as well. Some of the most common effects of untreated BPD can include the following:

  • Dysfunctional social relationships
  • Repeated job losses
  • Broken marriages
  • Expelled from school
  • Frequent hospitalizations due to self-harm or accidents
  • Scarring
  • Unplanned pregnancies
  • Increased risk of car accidents
  • Engagement in physical fights
  • Sexually transmitted diseases
  • Suicide

Co-Occurring Disorders

Borderline personality disorder & co-occurring disorders

Borderline personality disorder is associated with much higher rates of other psychiatric disorders. Some common co-occurring disorders may include:

  • Substance abuse disorders
  • Antisocial personality disorder
  • Depression
  • Anxiety disorder
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Eating disorders
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder
  • Suicidal ideation

Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently asked questions about borderline personality disorder

What are the borderline personality disorder symptoms in women?

Women, who are more likely to experience borderline personality disorder than men, often display the following symptoms of borderline personality disorder:

  • Excessive crying
  • Feelings of emptiness
  • Fear of being alone
  • Poor self-esteem

What are the borderline personality disorder symptoms in men?

Symptoms of borderline personality disorder in men can include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Aggressive behavior
  • Episodes of depression and/or anxiety
  • Excessive rage
  • Impulsivity

What are the effects of borderline personality disorder?

The effects of borderline personality disorder can be far-reaching and can include the following:

  • Deterioration of one’s health
  • Inability to uphold employment
  • Financial strife
  • Death by suicide (10% of those diagnosed with borderline personality disorder complete suicide)

What are the early signs of borderline personality disorder?

Many of the earliest signs that signify that borderline personality disorder is present include the following:

  • Unstable relationships
  • Inability to manage aggression
  • Low self-esteem
  • Self-harm
  • Substance abuse

What are borderline personality disorder behaviors?

Borderline personality disorder is a condition that causes individuals to present with troubling behaviors, such as:

  • Impulsivity (e.g., binge eating or overspending)
  • Frequent life changes
  • Manipulation
  • Episodes of anger

What effects does borderline personality disorder have on the family?

Borderline personality disorder can significantly affect a family unit in a negative way. When a loved one is not being treated for this condition, effects on the family can include excessive conflict, diminished contact, and the loss of previously valued relationships.

What causes borderline personality disorder?

Research has determined that borderline personality disorder can be caused by genetics and/or one’s environment. Having a first-degree relative with this mental illness can serve as a genetic risk factor for the development of borderline personality disorder, while environmental factors can include poor attachment issues in early development, neglect or abuse, or exposure to chronic conflict or stress.

I thought our family's life could never be normal, but Highland Ridge showed us how to manage this diagnosis.

– Blair D.