Borderline personality disorder is a mental illness that impacts the way a person perceives themselves and others, which causes serious problems in their everyday life. This disorder is marked by a pattern of instability in mood, behavior, functioning, self-image, and relationships.

Criteria for Diagnosing Borderline Personality Disorder

According to the fifth edition of the Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), which is a guidebook published by the American Psychiatric Association for mental health professionals, borderline personality disorder is “a pervasive pattern of instability of interpersonal relationships, self-image, and affects, and marked impulsivity, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts.”

To receive a diagnosis of borderline personality disorder, one must fulfill five or more of the following criterion.

  1. Frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment. Note: Do not include suicidal or self-mutilating behavior covered in five.
  2. A pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships characterized by alternating between extremes of idealization and devaluation.
  3. Identity disturbance: markedly and persistently unstable self-image or sense of self.
  4. Impulsivity in at least two area that are potentially self-damaging, such as spending, sex, substance abuse, reckless driving, or binge eating. Note: Do not include suicidal or self-mutilating behavior covered in five.
  5. Recurrent suicidal behavior, gestures, or threats, or self-mutilating behavior.
  6. Affective instability due to a marked reactivity of mood, such as intense episodic dysphoria, irritability or anxiety usually lasting a few hours or, in rare cases, a few days.
  7. Chronic feelings of emptiness.
  8. Inappropriate, intense anger and difficulty controlling anger. For example, frequent displays of temper, constant anger, or recurrent physical fights.
  9. Transient, stress-related paranoid ideation and severe dissociative symptoms.

People with borderline personality disorder may experience these feelings in response to certain triggers. For example, they may perceive anger in someone’s facial expressions even though that person does not feel angry. Some individuals with BPD may have strong reaction to words with negative meaning. Identifying and learning to respond to these triggers is a major step toward recovering from the illness.

Finding help for BPD

Because borderline personality disorder traits are similar to those of other mental illnesses, the disorder is commonly misdiagnosed. If you believe you are struggling with any of the criteria listed above, you should contact your primary care physician or a mental health provider. If you notice these symptoms in a friend or family member, you should talk to that person about contacting their primary care physician or a mental health professional.

Borderline Personality Disorder Resource Center