A person with borderline personality disorder

Borderline Personality Disorder

Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a serious mental health issue that is characterized by unstable relationships, behaviors, moods, and emotions. Left untreated, BPD can cause significant issues in a person’s life disrupting their work, school, day-to-day events, and their relationships with others. 

Like many psychological disorders, the causes of BPD are complex and not fully known. But with appropriate help and treatment, people diagnosed with BPD can live a better quality of life and reduce their symptoms.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What causes BPD?

    Although the exact cause of BPD is unknown, researchers believe that genetic, biological, and environmental factors play a role in this complex disorder. For instance, there is strong evidence that childhood trauma such as abuse and neglect may be associated with BPD.

  • Is BPD genetic?

    Similar to many other psychiatric disorders, there is evidence that BPD is highly heritable. People who have a first-degree relative with BPD have an increased risk of developing the condition, but this fact does not guarantee they will be diagnosed.

  • What are the criteria for BPD?

    To diagnose someone with BPD, mental health clinicians ascertain if a person has displayed five or more of the criteria for BPD such as emotional instability, impulsive behavior, unstable self-image, inappropriate anger, idealization and devaluation in relationships, suicidal or self-harming behaviors, transient stress related paranoid ideation or dissociative symptoms.

  • How is BPD treated?

    In most cases, BPD is treated with a combination of medications and psychotherapy. However, there are times when a person with BPD may be hospitalized to protect themselves and others. There are several evidence based psychotherapies often used in the treatment of BPD including Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), Mentalization-Based Therapy (MBT), and Transference-Focused Psychotherapy (TFP).

Key Terms

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Page Sources
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  2. Bateman A, Fonagy P. Mentalization based treatment for borderline personality disorder. World Psychiatry. 2010;9(1):11-15. doi:10.1002/j.2051-5545.2010.tb00255.x

  3. Society of Clinical Psychology. Transference-focused psychotherapy for borderline personality disorder.