5 Common Symptoms Of Borderline Personality Disorder

Updated March 13, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Borderline personality disorder is a mental health condition that may impact moods, behavior, and relationships. The first step is usually identifying the disorder by learning about common symptoms and patterns. 

The next step is reaching out for help and support, which can help a person experiencing borderline personality disorder to treat and manage their symptoms. This guide will explore common symptoms of borderline personality disorder and offer resources such as online therapy for those who'd like to learn more.

What Is Borderline Personality Disorder?

Do You Think You May Be Experiencing Symptoms Of BPD?

Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a mental health condition characterized by mood, self-image, and behavior fluctuations. It can also impact the ability to control emotions and increase impulsivity, which may negatively affect relationships. 

Individuals living with BPD often have difficulty separating their perception from reality regarding the behavior and moods of the people around them. Often, individuals living with borderline personality disorder have troubled relationships with loved ones. In addition, it can potentially lead to self-harm behaviors if left untreated.

Compared to other personality disorders, borderline personality disorder is relatively rare in the United States. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, only about 1.4% of adults in the US experience the symptoms of BPD; nearly 75% of this percentage are individuals who identify as women. If diagnosed, professionals usually recommend immediate treatment for individuals living with borderline personality disorder to prevent harm to the patient or the people around them.

5 Common Symptoms Of Borderline Personality Disorder

Borderline personality disorder typically presents specific symptoms. However, it's always important to seek a professional diagnosis even if you think you or someone you know might be experiencing BPD. Here are some of the most common symptoms of borderline personality disorder:

1. Avoidance Of Abandonment

People living with BPD often make valiant efforts to avoid being abandoned by those they love. The sense of abandonment may be real, imaginary, or a combination. Some behaviors that an individual experiencing BPD might exhibit include quickly getting close to people they care about (physically or emotionally) or creating rapid and extreme distance between themselves and others in anticipation of abandonment.

This avoidance of abandonment is often more evident in romantic relationships. Depending on the person and situation, the individual living with BPD may quickly become intimate with a new love interest or cut off a long-term love relationship for no apparent reason. 

Again, this pattern may look different depending on the individual -- different sexualities and identities may experience varying levels of attraction, and all are valid. And this same oscillation between closeness and total avoidance may also extend into other relationships with parents, siblings, and friends.

2. Unstable Relationships

Borderline individuals will commonly have unstable relationships with the people they love. They might view the people around them as "perfect" one day and "monstrous" the next. The difference between their perceptions of people can vary significantly from day to day, potentially affecting their behavior and the nature of the relationships. For this reason, people living with borderline personality disorder are often more likely to have on-again, off-again relationships.

The technical terminology related to this symptom alternates between "idealization" and "depersonalization." So, a person living with BPD might say about a person, "I love them, they're perfect," on one day, but the next day (or later that day), they may change their perspective and say something like "I can’t stand them, they're the cause of all my issues." The actual manifestation of these thoughts and expressions can vary from person to person, but the pattern is similar.

3. Impulsive Behaviors

BPD patients commonly demonstrate impulsive, dangerous behaviors. These behaviors vary from patient to patient and based on the severity of the disorder's manifestation, but these impulsive behaviors may include:

  • Suicide threats and/or attempts*

  • Promiscuity and unsafe sex

  • Alcohol and substance abuse**

  • Eating disorders***

  • Reckless driving

*If you or a loved one are experiencing suicidal thoughts, seek help immediately. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 988 and is available 24/7. 

**If you or a loved one are experiencing substance abuse, reach out for help immediately. The SAMHSA National Helpline (Substance Use) is available 24/7 at 1-800-662-4357.

***If you or a loved one are experiencing an eating disorder, seek help immediately. You can reach the National Eating Disorder Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

Impulsive behaviors can be diverse, and impulsivity is considered one of the most easily identifiable symptoms of borderline personality disorder. However, it may also be one of the scariest and most stressful symptoms for the people who love the individual living with BPD. If someone you love is engaging in dangerous behaviors that you believe could hurt them or someone else, contact a medical professional immediately for assistance.

4. Severe Mood Swings

Dramatic alternations between overwhelming anxiety and depression are common symptoms of multiple mood and personality disorders, so this symptom alone can't diagnose borderline personality disorder. However, it's a common symptom of BPD. 

These mood swings may appear as a few hours or days of irritability, depression, or anxiety, followed by a rapid switch into another mood state. Feelings of boredom or emptiness are also characteristic of borderline personality disorder. 

The characterizing factor that often sets these intense emotions apart from similar disorders is the nature and frequency of the mood swings. For example, a person living with BPD may feel profoundly empty one day. However, the next day they might feel ecstatically fulfilled for no apparent reason, or they may attribute the shift to something another person did.

5. Dissociation 

Some people living with borderline personality disorder may experience dissociative episodes. Feelings of dissociation involve feeling like you're "out of your body," a sense of lacking or losing one's identity, or a feeling that the world around you isn’t real. Individuals living with BPD most often experience dissociation during times of high stress. 

High-stress situations can potentially lead to psychotic episodes in people who do not have mental health disorders; the chance of a psychotic episode is higher for people living with borderline personality disorder and related personality disorders.

Treatment For Borderline Personality Disorder

Do You Think You May Be Experiencing Symptoms Of BPD?

Borderline personality disorder is a mental health condition that requires immediate treatment upon diagnosis. While the causes of BPD aren't entirely clear yet (genetics, environmental factors, and impaired brain function may all be related), various treatment methods are available to manage the disorder successfully. Some of the most popular treatments for borderline personality disorder include:

  • Medication: Medications such as antidepressants, mood stabilizers, and antipsychotics are commonly prescribed with great success to treat BPD.

  • Psychotherapy: Dialectical behavioral therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, and psychodynamic psychotherapy are often invaluable tools for individuals living with BPD. Learning techniques for emotional management and awareness is usually essential to managing the disorder and offer some of the most effective methods for improving symptoms over time.

  • Short-term hospitalization: Depending on the severity of the disorder, some individuals living with BPD may be hospitalized for a short time.

Many licensed therapists and psychiatrists specialize in working with personality disorders and mood disorders. Connecting with an expert is the most reliable source of a successful diagnosis, treatment, and recovery.

Research suggests that people living with BPD show signs of improvement with online interventions such as online therapy. In addition, online therapy can make finding treatment it more convenient and less stressful for those who are uncertain about in-person therapy. 

Online therapy has been proven to be equally as effective as in-person therapy from multiple studies relating to a range of mental health conditions. It can also allow an individual to connect with a wider range of qualified professionals and enjoy sessions from the safety of their homes. Individuals living with BPD can contact licensed psychiatrists, psychologists, and therapists for assistance in managing their symptoms. 


Borderline personality disorder may feel challenging to overcome for people who live with it or have loved ones living with it. After identifying the disorder's symptoms, however, these individuals can seek help from a medical professional. In addition, valid and effective methods for treating borderline personality disorder are available for those seeking assistance.

So, if you believe you or someone you know is living with borderline personality disorder, contact a licensed professional for diagnosis. Reaching out to one of our licensed therapists at BetterHelp can also provide connection to support and guidance during the process of diagnosis and treatment. 

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