BPD is a kind of mental illness that hinders the ability to manage emotions effectively. This disorder exists within the context of relationships. It can affect every relationship or only one. The disorder usually begins during adolescence or early adulthood.

Those suffering from BPD can be very high functioning in some situations; while their private lives may be very chaotic. Those who have BPD struggle to regulate emotions and thought. They can be extremely impulsive and often engage in risky, reckless behavior. A hall mark of BPD is the inability to maintain stable relationships.

Many times other disorders; including depression, anxiety disorders, eating disorders, substance abuse often exist along with BPD.

Diagnosis of BPD can be difficult and is often misdiagnosed. Many times BPD will be diagnosed as Bipolar disorder. This can be due to the fact that both diagnoses include a mood instability component. Generally the person with bipolar disorder will experience mood changes with the cycles lasting for weeks or even months. The mood changes associated with in BPD are much dynamic and have much shorter cycles sometimes they occur within the course of a day.

BPD was officially recognized in the 1980 edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders, Third Edition (DSM-III). BPD has unfortunately been met with confusion, misunderstanding and shame. However, evidenced-based treatments have emerged over the past two decades bringing hope to those diagnosed with the disorder and their loved ones.


  • BPD affects 5.9% of adults (roughly 14 million Americans) at some time in their life.
  • BPD affects 50% more people than Alzheimer’s disease and nearly as many as schizophrenia and bipolar combined (2.25%).
  • BPD affects 20% of patients admitted to psychiatric hospitals.
  • BPD affects 10% of people in outpatient mental health treatment.

Causes of Borderline Personality Disorder

Research on the causes and risk factors for BPD has lagged behind other disorders. The early research dies seem to indicate that combinations of genetic and environmental influences are involved.

Specific occurrences during childhood could also be involved in the development of BPD. These include emotional, physical and sexual abuse. Other factors such as loss, neglect and bullying may also contribute to the formation of BPD. A current theory is that some individuals are more likely to develop BPD due to their biology or genetics and damaging childhood experiences can further increase the risk.

Outcomes can be quite positive for people with BPD. This particularly true if they engaged in treatment. Specialized therapy, such as DBT can help most people with borderline personality disorder to decrease the severity of symptoms. For unknown reasons often individuals with BPD will experience a decrease in their impulsive behavior in their 40’s.

A timeline on the subject of BPD is located here: BPD History