Do I Have Borderline Personality Disorder? Potential Signs And Symptoms

Reviewed by Whitney White, MS CMHC, NCC., LPC

Published 06/27/2022

Borderline personality disorder or BPD is a personality disorder that impacts about 1.6% of the United States’ adult population. There are a number of popular books and movies that mention borderline personality disorder, such as “Girl Interrupted” by Susana Kaysen and “Loud In The House Of Myself” by Stacy Pershall. If you’re reading this article, you might be wondering, “How do you know if you have a borderline personality disorder?” or “What are the symptoms of borderline personality disorder? Can I have BPD if I don’t meet all of them?” This article will go over the potential signs and symptoms of borderline personality disorder and what to do if you think that you might be living with a borderline personality disorder.

What Is Borderline Personality Disorder?

All personality disorders are classified into three clusters in the DSM, including Cluster A, Cluster B, and Cluster C. Borderline personality disorder is a personality disorder classified as a Cluster B personality disorder. Cluster B personality disorders include histrionic personality disorder, antisocial personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, and narcissistic personality disorder. Although these disorders are very different and have different symptoms, Cluster B personality disorders are characterized by extreme emotions and unpredictable or impulsive behavior. A borderline personality disorder is a personality disorder characterized by emotional dysregulation or emotional instability, fear of abandonment, and unstable relationships. A person with a borderline personality disorder has intense emotions. Because the disorder is largely characterized by unstable relationships and fear of abandonment, it can impact interpersonal relationships very significantly.

Symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder

Here are some of the potential borderline personality disorder symptoms: 

  • Unstable interpersonal relationships
  • A fear of abandonment
  • Unstable self-image or an unstable sense of self
  • Self-destructive behaviors
  • Inappropriate or intense anger
  • Impulsivity
  • Dissociation or dissociative symptoms
  • Feelings of emptiness
  • Intense emotions and mood swings

BPD symptoms often overlap with symptoms of other mental health conditions, so it can be difficult to diagnose the condition at times. This is one of the many reasons why it’s important to see a medical or mental health provider if you recognize these symptoms in yourself.

Borderline Personality Disorder In The DSM

There are nine hallmark traits or symptoms affiliated with a borderline personality disorder. To be diagnosed with a borderline personality disorder, you must have five of those nine symptoms. Here is an overview of eight of those nine symptoms:

  • Frantic efforts to avoid real or perceived abandonment.
  • Patterns of unstable, intense interpersonal relationships characterized by “splitting.” Splitting refers to alternating from extremes of devaluation to idealization.
  • A marked, persistent unstable sense of self or self-image. Often, this is referred to as identity disturbance.
  • Impulsivity in two or more areas. This could be spending too much money, gambling, substance use, unprotected sex, reckless driving, or something else.
  • Stress-related, transient paranoid ideation, or severe dissociative symptoms.
  • Chronic feelings of emptiness.
  • Unstable moods.
  • Difficulty controlling one’s anger or inappropriate, intense anger. This might manifest in the form of angry outbursts, getting into physical fights or altercations, and being outwardly bitter toward other people.

Although borderline personality disorder has no known cure, it is a treatable mental health condition. Some people with borderline personality disorder experience hallucinations and other psychosis related symptoms during particularly stressful periods of time. The full, most recently updated version of a borderline personality disorder’s diagnostic criteria is in the DSM-V. To diagnose teenagers under 18 with borderline personality disorder, borderline personality disorder symptoms must be present for one year or more.

What Is “Quiet” Borderline Personality Disorder?

Quiet borderline personality disorder manifests a little bit differently than the classic manifestation of borderline personality disorder. If someone has what’s referred to as quiet borderline personality disorder, their symptoms are aimed inward instead of outward. So, someone may direct their feelings of anger inward if they have “quiet” BPD, where other people with borderline personality disorder would experience angry outbursts or direct their anger outward toward other people. It’s important to remember that, for someone to receive a borderline personality disorder diagnosis, they do not have to meet every symptom of borderline personality disorder. Again, you only need to meet five out of the nine markers of BPD that are listed in the DSM to receive a diagnosis. Symptoms are different for everyone, and quiet BPD is just one reminder of how much mental health conditions can vary from person to person.

What Causes Borderline Personality Disorder?

There is no known single cause for borderline personality disorder or BPD. However, we know that environmental factors play a role in the development of Borderline personality disorder. Many people with borderline personality disorder have a history of undergoing child abuse or neglect as children. This is a likely explanation for fear of abandonment that a person with borderline personality disorder faces. That said, you may wonder why some people who have experienced childhood abuse and/or neglect have a borderline personality disorder, whereas others do not. Family history and abnormalities in the brain or other possible contributors to BPD development, although you can’t predict if a person will develop borderline personality disorder or not for sure based on any of these things. Family history and trauma are seen as risk factors for the development of borderline personality disorder.

If you are facing or witnessing abuse of any kind, the National Domestic Violence Hotline is available. Call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or Text "START" to 88788. You can also use the online chat.

Borderline Personality Disorder Facts and Statistics

Here are some facts and statistics to know about borderline personality disorder:

  • Comorbid mental health conditions or co-occurring mental health conditions are common in those with a borderline personality disorder. It’s said that5% of people with borderline personality disorder have another mental health disorder, in fact.
  • Bipolar disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder, anxiety disorders, substance use disorder, eating disorders, and more, are all commonly seen comorbidities seen in those with BPD.
  • Roughly half of those with borderline personality disorder struggle with substance use.
  • Up to 53.8% of those with a borderline personality disorder may meet the eating disorder criteria. About 25% of people with anorexia nervosa are said to meet the criteria for borderline personality disorder, and roughly 28% of people with bulimia nervosa are said to meet the criteria for borderline personality disorder.
  • A diagnosis of borderline personality disorder is more commonly seen in women than it is in men. In fact, roughly 75% of people who are diagnosed with borderline personality disorder are women.
  • The average age of onset for borderline personality disorder occurs in one’s teenage or young adult years.

How Do You Know If You Have Borderline Personality Disorder?

The only way to get a diagnosis of borderline personality disorder or BPD is to see a medical or mental health professional, often a psychiatrist qualified to diagnose mental health disorders, psychologist, or therapist or counselor. Some people are diagnosed when they notice the symptoms in themselves and see a mental health provider, where some are diagnosed if they are in the hospital due to their symptoms and are diagnosed during the stay. Note that borderline personality disorder is sometimes misdiagnosed as bipolar disorder or other mental health conditions. If you believe you have BPD or could have BPD, it is essential to reach out to a medical or mental health professional and make an appointment to describe your symptoms and what you’re going through and receive an accurate diagnosis.

Help for Borderline Personality Disorder

The first line of treatment for a borderline personality disorder is dialectical behavioral therapy or DBT*. Various studies on dialectical behavioral therapy or DBT for individuals with borderline personality disorder have proven the efficacy of this form of therapy for the condition. Some professionals specialize in dialectical behavioral therapy or dialectical behavioral therapy groups that you may attend for DBT skills, specifically in most areas. To find treatment for borderline personality disorder in your area, there are a variety of routes that you can go to. You might search the web for “borderline personality disorder therapists near me” or “borderline personality disorder counselors near me.” You can also contact your primary care physician or general doctor and ask for a referral, contact your insurance company or visit their website for information on who they cover, or use an online mental health professional directory or an online provider search tool such as the one in the upper right-hand corner of the Mind Diagnostics website.

Take the Mind Diagnostics Borderline Personality Disorder Test

Are you wondering if you might have a borderline personality disorder? If so, consider taking the Mind Diagnostics borderline personality disorder test. The Mind Diagnostics borderline personality disorder test is not a replacement for a medical or mental health professional diagnosis but getting insight into your symptoms is important. Taking the test might just be the first step to getting the help that you need. The Mind Diagnostics borderline personality disorder test is free, fast, and confidential for those aged 18 and older.

Click here to take the Mind Diagnostics borderline personality disorder test.

*For all information regarding specific treatments, please consult a medical or mental health professional.