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Borderline Personality Disorder

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Aug 31, 2022.

What is borderline personality disorder?

Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a pattern of thoughts and behaviors that causes most areas of your life to be unstable. Your thoughts and behaviors seem normal to you, but not to others.

What are the signs and symptoms of BPD?

BPD causes shifts in moods, thoughts, and opinions from one extreme to the other. These shifts make it hard for you to function in relationships and in social settings, such as work or school. You may have many of the following:

  • Impulsive or risky behavior , such as spending sprees, drug or alcohol abuse, reckless driving, binge eating, or unsafe sex
  • Unstable, dramatic relationships because your feelings shift from love to hate, or worship to disgust
  • Emotions that are difficult to control, such as intense anger, extreme reactions to stress, or feeling empty or bored
  • Self-harm thoughts or actions , such as suicidal thoughts, or cutting, scratching, or burning yourself
  • Intense fear of abandonment that makes you want to cling to other people
  • Distorted thoughts that make you lose touch with reality or believe that others are trying to hurt you
  • A distorted self-image that may cause sudden changes in plans or goals

How is BPD diagnosed?

There is no test to diagnose BPD. Your healthcare provider may be able to diagnose BPD after hearing about your symptoms. Your provider will ask if you have ever been a victim of physical, sexual, or mental abuse. Tell your provider if you ever want to hurt or kill yourself or others. Your provider may ask if you have other medical conditions or disorders. It is very common to have other disorders with BPD. Examples are drug or alcohol abuse, eating disorders, and other personality disorders.

How is BPD treated?

Treatment may need to take place in a hospital or clinic. Treatment works best if you learn about BPD and help create your treatment plan. Be patient. Do not give up if you have a setback. Treatment for BPD is a slow process, but over time you may improve symptoms or even recover from BPD.

  • Therapy helps you learn skills to control your moods and improve your relationships. You also learn how to replace negative thoughts and beliefs with positive ones. You might work alone with a therapist, or attend group therapy with others who have BPD.
  • Medicines may be used to treat symptoms that occur with BPD:
    • An antidepressant called an SSRI may be used to treat anxiety and depression.
    • Mood stabilizers control mood swings and may decrease impulsive behavior.
    • Antipsychotics help regulate thought and judgment, and may reduce anxiety, paranoia, and hostility.

Treatment options

The following list of medications are in some way related to or used in the treatment of this condition.

View more treatment options

What should I do if I want to harm myself or others?

Your healthcare provider will help you create a crisis plan to follow if you have thoughts about hurting yourself or someone else. The plan will include the names of people to call during a crisis. Share your plan with friends and family. Ask someone to stay with you if a crisis occurs.

  • Contact a suicide prevention organization:
    • For the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, call either of the following:
      • 988
      • 1-800-273-8255 (1-800-273-TALK)
    • For the Suicide Hotline: 1-800-784-2433 (1-800-SUICIDE)
    • For a list of international numbers:

How can I manage BPD?

  • Create a daily routine. Eat meals at the same time each day. Go to sleep at the same time each night. Tell your healthcare provider if you have trouble sleeping.
  • Reduce stress. Exercise regularly, or do other activities you enjoy. Make time to relax each day. Spend time with people and in places where you feel safe and at ease.
  • Set realistic goals. Your healthcare provider can help you develop short-term and long-term goals. Break large tasks into small ones so you do not feel overwhelmed.

Where can I find support and more information?

  • National Alliance on Mental Illness
    3803 N. Fairfax Dr., Suite 100
    Arlington , VA 22203
    Phone: 1- 703 - 524-7600
    Phone: 1- 800 - 950-6264
    Web Address:

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

When should I or someone close to me seek immediate care or call 911?

  • You lose touch with reality. You see, hear, or feel things that are not real.
  • You want to harm or kill yourself or someone else.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Learn more about Borderline Personality Disorder

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.