Borderline Personality Disorder in Teens

Depressed/Sad girl
Mixmike / Getty Images
Table of Contents
View All
Table of Contents

Borderline personality symptoms are confusing, frustrating, and hard for loved ones to understand. This is particularly the case for parents or caregivers dealing with teens who have borderline personality disorder (BPD).

While we know a great deal about how borderline personality symptoms look in adults, we know much less about how the disorder presents in teens. In fact, there is still controversy over whether it is appropriate to diagnose teens with BPD.

Many experts argue that teens can have BPD, and adolescent BPD is now recognized as an official diagnosis.

Parents often have questions about borderline personality in adolescents. Some are worried that their teen is exhibiting the signs of borderline personality disorder (BPD), such as intense and frequent mood swings, impulsive behaviors, self-harm or difficulties in relationships. Others have BPD themselves and are worried that their kids will also have the disorder.


Many experts have argued that borderline personality should not be diagnosed in anyone younger than 18 since technically, their personality is not yet fully formed. In the most recent edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), though, there is a provision that allows for the diagnosis of borderline personality before the age of 18.

While the provision technically allows for the diagnosis of BPD in children under 13, this is very rare.


While the symptoms of BPD as listed in the official DSM-5 diagnostic criteria are no different for teens and adults, some experts have suggested that there are differences in adolescent BPD symptoms.

Symptoms, such as instability in interpersonal relationships, impulsive behavior, chronic emptiness and unstable sense of self, may look different in teens.


According to a review published in 2015, the remission rate for adolescents could range from 50% to 65%, however it's also possible that some symptoms could remain even though some teens no longer met the diagnostic criteria for BPD.


According to a study published in 2014, rates of borderline personality in teens are slightly higher than in adults. This may be related to the fact that some teenagers display BPD in reaction to stressful events, but many are more likely to recover.

Risk Factors

The risk factors for borderline personality in adolescents are very similar to the risk factors in adults. In fact, many of the environmental risk factors for BPD occur during childhood. For example, childhood abuse and neglect, as well as parental separation or loss, have been linked to borderline personality in adults and teens.

Research has also found that kids whose parents have serious mental health conditions (such as depression, substance abuse or antisocial personality) are also at greater risk for BPD. In addition, there are likely biological risk factors for BPD, such as a genetic component of the disorder that is inherited.


If you are worried that your adolescent may be at risk for developing BPD based on either environmental risk factors (e.g., trauma exposure) or biological risk factors (e.g., a first-degree relative with the disorder), you will be happy to know that experts believe that for some teens there are ways to prevent the disorder.


Several types of psychotherapy, including dialectical behavior therapy and cognitive-behavioral therapy, may be effective with teens with borderline personality. In addition, while there are no FDA-approved medications for BPD, there are medications that have been shown to reduce some of the symptoms.


Finding good treatment for an adult with BPD is hard, but given some of the controversial issues in diagnosing borderline personality in adolescents, finding a therapist for a teen with BPD is even harder. Fortunately, more and more therapists are being trained to treat teens with borderline personality.

Was this page helpful?
Article Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Kaess M, Brunner R, Chanen A. Borderline personality disorder in adolescence. Pediatrics. 2014;134(4):782-93. doi:10.1542/peds.2013-3677

  2. Biskin RS. The Lifetime Course of Borderline Personality DisorderCan J Psychiatry. 2015;60(7):303–308. doi:10.1177/070674371506000702

  3. American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. 5th edition. Washington DC; 2013.

  4. Guilé JM, Boissel L, Alaux-Cantin S, de La Rivière SG. Borderline personality disorder in adolescents: prevalence, diagnosis, and treatment strategiesAdolesc Health Med Ther. 2018;9:199–210. doi:10.2147/AHMT.S156565