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What is Borderline Personality Disorder?

Updated: Oct 28, 2020

Borderline personality disorder is a diagnosis marked by a pattern of intense emotions, difficulty managing behavior, negative self image, and unstable relationships.

People with borderline personality disorder may experience the following:

- Intense emotions and mood swings

- Impulsivity (spending money, substance use, etc)

- Unstable sense of self

- Black-and-white thinking (something/someone is either all good or all bad)

- Relationship problems ("hot and cold")

- Fear of abandonment/ making a lot of effort to prevent abandonment

- Feelings of emptiness

- Low self-esteem/ negative self-image

- Uncontrollable anger

- Self-harming behavior

- Suicidal thoughts and/or behaviors

- Difficulty trusting others

- Dissociation (disconnecting from your body, from your experience)

- Intense episodes of depression, anxiety, etc.

Why do people develop borderline personality?

There are many possible reasons why someone develops borderline personality disorder. There is no known cause, but most experts agree that it is likely a complex combination of biology, environment, and psychological factors. It's also important to note that not everyone with these risk factors develops borderline personality. Additionally, not everyone with borderline personality experiences these risk factors. That being said, here are the most common theories:

  1. Biological factors - if you have a close biological relative with borderline personality disorder you are about 5 times more likely to have it yourself.

  2. Environmental factors - it is common for people with borderline personality to have experienced childhood trauma, particularly abuse and/or neglect. Often times they were also taught to ignore their emotions, or their emotions and experiences were invalidated by others.

  3. Psychological factors - personality and temperament paired with environment and learned behaviors can impact whether someone develops borderline personality. For example, some people naturally experience emotions more intensely than others.


Research shows that the most effective treatment for borderline personality disorder is dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). This therapy model was actually designed specifically for individuals with borderline personality. The model is fairly structured and focuses on teaching and practicing an abundance of effective skills that help with the following categories:

  1. Mindfulness (focusing on the present moment)

  2. Interpersonal effectiveness (improving communication and relationships)

  3. Emotion regulation (coping with day-to-day emotions)

  4. Distress tolerance (coping with highly distressing emotions)

Individuals who integrate DBT skills into their lives often report feeling more in control of their emotions, more confident in their relationships, and experience improved self esteem.

If you identify with traits of borderline personality disorder, and are curious about how DBT can benefit you, please feel free to contact me or read more about my DBT services here. It's always a good time to feel more confident and in control of your life!

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