How BPD Symptoms May Change With Age

Older man reading book on dock at lake

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If someone you know has borderline personality disorder (BPD), you may have noticed that as that person grows older (into their late 30s and 40s), their symptoms seem to decline in frequency and severity. In fact, this a common phenomenon among those with BPD and has become a major subject of research among healthcare professionals and psychiatrists. 

Age and BPD Symptoms

While researchers are not exactly sure why BPD symptoms decline with age, some experts have suggested some potential reasons, including burn out, learning, and avoidance of relationships. These can be linked to both biological and environmental factors. 

Burn Out

Some experts have speculated that BPD symptoms decline because the symptoms naturally “burn out” or that people simply grow out of the symptoms as they mature. In particular, research has shown that the impulsivity symptoms of BPD are the most likely to decline over time. This is consistent with the observation that, in general, older people engage in less impulsive behavior, even if they do not have BPD.

It may be that as we age and mature, the urge to engage in impulsive behaviors slowly goes away, allowing us to make more measured and rational decisions.

Just as partying all night loses its appeal for many in their forties and fifties, impulsive or reckless BPD behaviors may also seem less natural. 


Other experts think that BPD symptoms may decline because as you age, you learn how to better manage your symptoms. For some people, this learning may come as the result of intensive treatment, but for others, this may be the result of the natural learning that comes from negotiating life’s challenges.

Through experience and trying different treatment options and coping skills, you may be able to decrease the severity of symptoms or handle them before they start. This is similar to learning any skill—with practice over time, it becomes easier to accomplish. 

Avoidance of Intimate Relationships

Finally, experts have speculated that BPD symptoms decline because, over time, a person with BPD may learn to avoid situations that trigger symptoms. For example, for many people with BPD, problems in interpersonal relationships trigger the most intense reactions and symptoms.

People with BPD may start to avoid interpersonal relationships altogether in order to reduce their distress. This has been referred to as being "comfortably alone."

While some people have reported success with this approach, it is hardly considered a solid treatment option. Avoidance and living a solitary life are not considered healthy approaches to BPD but does play a role in decreasing symptom frequency. 

Other Theories

It is important to note that some experts dispute whether it is a person's age or simply the duration of time he or she has had BPD that is linked to the decline in their symptoms. In other words, is it the age of the person that predicts their symptoms, or how long they have had BPD?

Also, it is important to understand that while BPD is often thought of as a younger adulthood disorder, there is a group of people who meet the criteria at an older age (40 to 60 years of age).

In this study, older people with BPD were more likely to exhibit feelings of chronic emptiness and have higher degrees of social impairment. They were less likely to have impulsivity, engage in self-harm, or have rapid shifts in mood. 

A Word From Verywell

While there appears to be a link between age and decreased symptoms in BPD, research has yet to identify the exact cause. Whether it is a result of natural maturation or a change in brain chemistry over time, scientists continue to look for the association as it may have a significant impact on diagnosing and treating people with BPD in the future. If there is, in fact, a change in brain chemistry, it could mean that potential medications could mimic this effect and help lessen symptoms. 

4 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.
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  2. Oltmanns T, Rodrigues M, Weinstein Y, Gleason M. Prevalence of Personality Disorders at Midlife in a Community Sample: Disorders and Symptoms Reflected in Interview, Self, and Informant Reports. J Psychopathol Behav Assess. 2014;36(2):177-188. doi:10.1007%2Fs10862-013-9389-7

  3. Ng F, Townsend M, Miller C, Jewell M, Grenyer B. The lived experience of recovery in borderline personality disorder: a qualitative study. Borderline Personal Disord Emot Dysregul. 2019;6:10. doi:10.1186%2Fs40479-019-0107-2

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Additional Reading

By Kristalyn Salters-Pedneault, PhD
 Kristalyn Salters-Pedneault, PhD, is a clinical psychologist and associate professor of psychology at Eastern Connecticut State University.