Borderline personality disorder is a mental disorder that affects the way you think and feel about yourself and others, and causes problems with daily functioning. These include problems with self-image, difficulty dealing with emotions and behavior, and an unstable relationship pattern.
With borderline personality disorder, you have a strong fear of abandonment or instability, and you may find it difficult to tolerate loneliness. However, inappropriate anger, impulsiveness, and frequent mood swings can drive others away, even if you want to have a loving and lasting relationship.
Borderline personality disorder usually begins in early adulthood. The condition appears to worsen in young adults and may gradually improve as they age.
Borderline personality disorder affects how you feel about yourself, your relationships with others, and your behavior.
Signs and symptoms can include:
An intense fear of abandonment that even takes extreme measures to avoid a real or imaginary breakup or rejection
A pattern of intense unstable relationships, such as idealizing someone at one point and then suddenly believing that the person doesn’t care enough or is cruel
Rapid changes in self-identity and self-image that include shifting goals and values and perceiving yourself as bad or as if you don’t exist at all
Periods of stress-related paranoia and loss of contact with reality that last from minutes to hours
Impulsive and risky behavior such as gambling, reckless driving, unsafe sex, binge drinking, binge eating or drug addiction, or sabotaging success by suddenly quitting a good job or ending a positive relationship
Suicidal threats or behavior, or self-harm, often in response to fear of separation or rejection
As with other mental disorders, the causes of borderline personality disorder are not fully understood. In addition to environmental factors – such as child abuse or history of neglect – borderline personality disorder can be linked to:
Genetically. Some studies in twins and families suggest that personality disorders may be inherited or strongly linked to other mental disorders in family members.
Brain abnormalities. Some research has shown changes in certain areas of the brain that are involved in regulating emotions, impulsivity, and aggression. Additionally, some brain chemicals that help regulate mood, such as serotonin, may not work properly.
Certain factors related to personality development can increase your risk of borderline personality disorder. These include:
Hereditary disposition. You may be at greater risk if a close relative – your mother, father, brother, or sister – has the same or a similar disorder.
A stressful childhood. Many people with this disorder report having been sexually or physically abused or neglected as children. Some people lost or were separated from a parent or close caregiver when they were young or had parents or caregivers with addictions or other mental health problems.