Borderline Personality Disorder Definition

Many of us have heard about borderline personality disorder and that it can be extremely difficult for patients and the loved ones around them to live with. But what exactly is it, and what does it entail?

People with borderline personality disorder (BPD) have great difficulty managing their emotions, causing them to react inappropriately to certain situations. They suffer from severe mood swings, have unstable relationships, behave impulsively, and have problems with their self-confidence.

Although the disorder is hard to deal with, it is possible to treat and even heal from it in many cases. In the sections below, we will look at the traits of borderline personality disorder, what causes it, how to cope if you or a loved one have it, and the treatment options available.

Male with borerline personality disorder in therapy session

What Are The Traits Of Borderline Personality Disorder?

The Miriam-Webster Dictionary defines borderline personality disorder as follows: “A personality disorder that is marked by unstable, intense emotions and mood with symptoms including instability in interpersonal relationships and self-image, fear of abandonment, and impulsive or unpredictable behavior and that has an onset during adolescence or early adulthood.”

According to the verywellhealth website, borderline personality disorder is divided into the following four types (patients may have only one or suffer from all types simultaneously):


  • Unpredictable, fast-changing mood swings
  • Feeling unloved
  • Feeling unworthy of being loved
  • Needing to be in control at all times
  • Irritability
  • Impatience
  • Rebellion
  • Stubbornness
  • Passive-aggressiveness

Discouraged (also known as quiet)

An intense fear that their loved ones will abandon them, causing them to go to extreme, often inappropriate, lengths to prevent it. They may become angry or manipulative when they feel their loved ones are abandoning them.

They also regularly attempt to make their loved ones feel guilty. Emotions are not expressed to others but instead kept inside. They tend to blame themselves rather than the people around them.

  • Often very successful and perfectionistic
  • Codependent
  • Clingy
  • Needy
  • High functioning
  • They do not feel like they fit in when in group settings
  • They feel like they have no genuine relationships
  • Often feel lonely and empty
  • Seek approval from others
  • Isolate themselves often
  • Tendency to be suicidal
  • Tendency to engage in self-harming


As the name suggests, the main trait of this type is impulsivity.The person may also seem:

  • Energetic
  • Charismatic
  • Engaging
  • Elusive
  • Detached
  • Motivating
  • Aggression


  • Self-harm
  • Self-hatred
  • Bitterness
  • Engage in risky activities
  • Suicidal threats
  • Insomnia
  • High energy levels
  • Euphoria

More general traits not linked to a specific type of the disorder may be viewed on the following websites:

Man holding two different emotion masks symbolizing Borderline Personality Disorder

What Are Some Of The Root Causes Of BPD?

Although it is not entirely certain what causes the disorder, research studies suggest that a person might have an increased risk of developing it due to childhood trauma, genetics, and possibly certain brain functions.

Early childhood trauma, such as neglect and emotional abuse, is a significant risk factor because it causes a child to feel that they are not worthy of love and affection. It subsequently leads to the child having no self-confidence and problems with their identity.

These children also usually believe that the abuse is their fault and that they deserve it, especially if the abuser is their primary caregiver.

The maltreatment additionally causes the child to fear abandonment since abuse by a caregiver often includes threats to leave the child. The abuse also results in the child not trusting that there are people who will not cause them harm. More detailed information on how childhood trauma can lead to borderline personality disorder may be found on the National Library of Medicine website.

If a close family member has the disorder, it increases one’s risk of developing it through genetics. Research has also shown that there are functional changes in the brain where impulses and emotional regulation are controlled. However, researchers are uncertain if these changes in the brain cause the disorder or whether the condition causes the changes.  

Can Borderline Personality Disorder Be Successfully Treated?

Research has shown that borderline personality disorder can indeed be successfully treated and healed in many instances. The condition is mainly treated through therapy and, in some cases, medication. If you or someone close to you have been diagnosed with it, you can rest assured that it can be treated and that many patients go on to live happy, fulfilled lives after treatment.

Some therapists use dialectal behavior therapy and schema-focused therapy. However, the most effective therapy seems to be helping a patient work through and heal the disorder’s root causes. Therapy that deals with the disorder’s root causes is most successful because the causes often relate to traumatic childhood experiences.

You must seek professional help if you suspect you or a loved one may suffer from the disorder. A trained professional can help you establish if you have the disorder, help you work through the root causes, and provide coping strategies when your emotions get too intense.

What Are Some Coping Strategies For BPD?

Some coping strategies people with borderline personality disorder use are to calm their emotions, endure anxiety, control their impulses, and improve their social skills. More information on these coping strategies is available on the website. The verywellmind website also has some potentially helpful information on coping with the intense anger associated with the disorder.

If your loved one has the disorder, you can encourage them to seek treatment. It would also be good for you to learn as much about the disorder as possible and what triggers your loved one’s episodes. Although it can become tough to interact with them sometimes, try to be patient and do not judge them.

To protect yourself from the harmful effects your loved one’s disorder can have on you, you should set clear boundaries and remember to take care of yourself. The Mind website expands more on how to help someone suffering from the disorder.

Although these coping strategies may provide some relief, consulting with a trained professional who can provide the most effective assistance and therapy is vital.

How Can I Establish If A Loved One Or I Have BPD?

If you or a loved one have many of the traits described earlier in this post, there is a possibility that they or you may have borderline personality disorder. The website has a quiz that may also help determine whether there is a possibility of having the disorder.

Although this quiz and the described traits can alert to the possibility that someone might have borderline personality disorder, only a trained professional can confirm it with certainty. Therefore, you must consult a professional to confirm the diagnosis since many of the disorder’s traits are often also linked to other mental illnesses.

Continue Reading: How to Co-Parent with Someone with Borderline Personality Disorder


The emotional instability associated with borderline personality disorder can devastate the sufferer and the loved ones around them. However, it can be successfully treated, and patients can go on to live happy and fulfilled lives.

If you suspect that you or someone close to you may be suffering from it, it would be good to consult a trained professional.

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